Russian soldiers stand at the gate after taking control of the Navy South headquarters base in Novoozerne, Crimea, on March 19. (Agence France-Presse)
WARSAW — Pro-Russian militants who took control over Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula will be integrated into the ranks of the Russian Armed Forces, said retired Adm. Vladimir Komoyedov, the chairman of the defense committee of the Russian Duma.
“The self-defense forces of Crimea should be reformed and become part of [Russia’s] Southern Military District,” said Komoyedov, who served as the commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet prior to becoming a member of Russia’s lower house of parliament. The district is one of the four districts of the Russian Armed Forces.
Komoyedov also said that about 20 vessels of the Ukrainian Navy could be integrated into the Black Sea Fleet following Crimea’s reunification with Russia.
In mid-March, Ukrainian Defense Minister Ihor Tenyukh said there were an estimated 60,000 Russian troops stationed in Crimea and at Ukraine’s border with Russia.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Leonid Polyakov said the ministry is developing an evacuation plan for the Ukrainian military from the Crimean peninsula.
Rear Adm. Serhiy Hayduk, the chief of Ukraine’s Navy, was captured by pro-Russian militants March 19 as they stormed the Ukrainian Navy Command’s headquarters in Sevastopol. The admiral was released the next day following talks between Ukrainian and Russian state officials, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said in a statement.