Ukrainian armed forces dispatched to Crimea have switched to the side of local authorities and are expected to take military oath soon, Russian news agencies report.
“Today the majority of the Ukrainian armed forces deployed in Crimea passed to the side of the authorities of the Crimean autonomous region. The transition was absolutely peaceful, without a single shot fired either by the military or by the forces of self-defense,” an unnamed source told RIA Novosti news agency.
The source added that some of the servicemen also ran away, while some submitted letters of resignation.
The local military have not been paid for many months, the source also told RIA Novosti.
Newly appointed Navy Chief rear admiral Denis Berezovsky has sworn allegiance to the people of Crimea, the news agency reported.
“I, Berezovsky Denis, swear allegiance to the Crimean people and pledge to protect it, as required by the [army] regulations,” he said.
Earlier, Ukrainian troops in Crimea were said to be resigning on a massive scale. Living quarters, weapons and ammunition have all been left under the protection of the so-called ‘self-defense forces.’
Letters of resignation have been coming in since early morning, as the self-defense forces continue to preserve order on the streets of Simferopol, RIA Novosti said citing own reporters on the ground.
Since Thursday, the city’s Supreme Council and a number of other buildings have been occupied and guarded by the self-defense forces run by the local population.
Crimea’s deputy prime minister, Rustam Temirgaliev, announced that the Ukrainian armed forces have all but surrendered their military capabilities and that no active units remain in the Crimea.
"The entire Ukrainian armed forces stationed on the Crimean territory have been blocked," Interfax reported him as saying. "The self-defense forces have taken control of the landing strips of all the Crimean airports and airfields."
The deputy PM said that that the region’s security services and emergency services now report to the local government.
Crimeans began protesting after the new self-imposed government in Kiev introduced a law abolishing the use of other languages for official documents in Ukraine. More than half the Crimean population are Russian and use only this language for their communication. The residents have announced they are going to hold a referendum on March 30 to determine the fate of the Ukrainian autonomous region.