KIEV, Ukraine — Six Ukrainian military officers detained by Russian troops in Crimea have been released and were being evacuated Wednesday from the Black Sea peninsula, but five still remained in custody.

Russian forces over the last few weeks have stormed one Ukrainian military base after another in Crimea, which was annexed by Russia after residents voted in a contentious referendum March 16 to secede from Ukraine.

A Defense Ministry spokesman said the released officers included Col. Yuliy Mamchur, a commander who has earned wide acclaim for defying the pro-Russian forces who besieged his base for almost three weeks.

President Oleksandr Turchinov said he hopes to see the freed officers Thursday in the capital, Kiev.

“Those officers that so bravely conducted themselves will indubitably be awarded and promoted for their courage,” he said.

Five more serviceman including a colonel were still being detained, Defense Ministry spokesman Vladislav Seleznyov said. He spoke to the colonel Wednesday and said the officer was coming under sustained pressure to switch over and work for the Russians.


In addition to storming Ukraine’s military bases in Crimea, Russian troops have also seized numerous warships there, leaving Ukraine’s navy almost entirely depleted.

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, who met Wednesday with his Ukrainian counterpart Andriy Deshchytsia, called the confiscations “piracy.”

Sikorski also voiced concerns that Russian President Vladimir Putin had drawn up “an ambitious plan that could possibly go far beyond Crimea.”

Deshchytsia said Ukraine’s army and civilians would organize to resist any Russian incursions into eastern Ukraine, which is heavily populated by Russian speakers.

“As far as eastern Ukraine regions are concerned, I must say that we will defend them,” he said.

Talking later to The Associated Press, Sikorski supported an idea to decentralize some power in Ukraine but said Russia’s pressing for a federation system “must not mean a plan for a creeping partitioning” of Ukraine.

The country of 46 million is politically divided, with many residents in the west favoring ties with the 28-nation European Union while residents in the east back having closer ties with Russia.

In Brussels, President Obama said Russia must not be allowed to “run roughshod” over its neighbors as it has done in Ukraine.

In another sign of the tensions between Moscow and Kiev, Russia accused Ukrainian officials Wednesday of barring Russian commercial airline crews from going outside their planes in Ukrainian airports.

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