Sources in Crimea are reporting that Ukrainian forces have begun to surrender to Russian forces in Crimea. This information comes as Russian President Vladimir Putin announced this morning that he has no plans of attacking Ukrainian military forces at the moment but that it could still occur as a “last resort.” Russia deescalated its military forces earlier today by putting a hold on military training exercises in the region.
The prime minister of Crimea, the autonomous Ukrainian republic seized by Russian military forces, said on Tuesday that a majority of Ukrainian military units on the peninsula had surrendered and pledged allegiance to his pro-Russian government, and that local officials were working to speed up a referendum on independence.
Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday morning, Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov said that regional officials were in control of the security situation, even as armed standoffs continued between Russian forces and Ukrainian troops at several military installations, including a base near the airport of Belbek near Sevastopol.
“There is no safety threat to human life in Crimea,” Mr. Aksyonov said.
He said that a referendum on independence from Ukraine scheduled for March 30 would likely be held sooner, but he offered no details. He said that he had not been in contact with Viktor F. Yanukovych, the ousted president of Ukraine who fled to Russia but has said he plans to return.
Mr. Aksyonov said that Crimean armed forces were now in a position to ensure the security of the peninsula on their own but that military officials were working with commanders of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, which is based in Sevastopol under a long-term lease.
“We are coordinating our activists with the Black Sea Fleet,” he said. “But as of today we are in a position to ensure our own security,”