MOSCOW, March 21 (RIA Novosti) – A total of 72 military units in Crimea have hoisted Russian flags instead of Ukrainian and applied to join the Russian armed forces, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.
“Yesterday, 72 military units almost in full strength decided to join the Russian armed forces. We are now dealing with service and citizenship issues of officers and soldiers from these units,” he said.
Shoigu said that every serviceman can choose from three options: continue his service in the Russian armed forces, end his service and stay in Crimea or leave the region.
Those willing to continue their service in the Ukrainian army will be provided with transport to carry their families and belongings to the Ukrainian territory.
Leaders in the predominantly Russian-ethnic republic refused to recognize the legitimacy of the government in Kiev that came to power amid often violent protests last month, instead seeking reunification with Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree earlier in the day to ratify the treaty providing for the reunification of the Crimean Peninsula with Russia.