Ukrainian troops defect to Russian army in thousands

Ukrainian troops defect to Russian army in thousands
Fri Apr 4, 2014 19:36:26

Some 8,000 Ukrainian army soldiers who were stationed in Crimea have left Ukraine's military to join the Russian armed forces, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has announced.

Shoigu revealed the figure on Friday, saying the soldiers have applied for permission to enlist in the Russian army and some 3,000 Ukrainian soldiers had already joined Russian troops.

The defense minister also said that all other Ukrainian troops have left the Black Sea peninsula and that Ukrainian military equipment was being handed over to the Kiev administration.

In addition, Shoigu denied that Russia violated any signed agreements with Kiev by increasing its military presence in the peninsula.

"In the recent months, threat for the civilians in Crimea as well as danger of Russian military facilities' capture by extremists has occurred. Thanks to high moral qualities, good training and restraint, Russian troops managed to avoid bloodshed," said Shoigu.

Crimea declared independence from Ukraine and formally applied to become part of the Russian Federation following a referendum on March 16, in which nearly 97 percent of the voters in Crimea said yes to reunion with Russia.

On March 21, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law the documents officially making Crimea part of the Russian territory. Putin said the move was carried out based on the international law.

The move sparked angry reactions from the United States and the European Union, both imposing sanctions against a number of Russian officials and authorities in Crimea.

The Western military alliance of NATO has accused Russia of violating Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said Moscow has absolutely no intention of crossing into Ukraine.


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