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Ukraine bows to Crimea seizure, plans for pullout

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Pro-Russian self-defense force members get through an entrance to the Ukrainian Navy headquarters in Sevastopol, Crimea, Wednesday, March 19, 2014. An Associated Press photographer said several hundred militiamen took down the gate and made their way onto the base. They then raised the Russian flag in the square by the headquarters. The unarmed militia waited for an hour on the square before the move to storm the headquarters. Following the arrival of the commander of the Russian Black Sea fleet, the Crimeans took over the building. (AP Photo/Andrew Lubimov)

Pro-Russian self-defense force members get through an entrance to the Ukrainian Navy headquarters in Sevastopol, Crimea, Wednesday, March 19, 2014. An Associated Press photographer said several hundred militiamen took down the gate and made their way onto the base. They then raised the Russian flag in the square by the headquarters. The unarmed militia waited for an hour on the square before the move to storm the headquarters. Following the arrival of the commander of the Russian Black Sea fleet, the Crimeans took over the building. (AP Photo/Andrew Lubimov)

Ukrainian servicemen pile up their things after leaving the Ukrainian navy headquarters stormed by Crimean pro-Russian self-defense forces in Sevastopol, Crimea, Wednesday, March 19, 2014. Crimea’s self-defense forces on Wednesday stormed the Ukrainian navy headquarters in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol, taking possession without resistance a day after Russia signed a treaty with local authorities to annex the region. (AP Photo/Andrew Lubimov)

Unarmed members of Pro-Russian self-defense forces, left, force themselves through a chain of Ukrainian military men at the Ukrainian Navy headquarters in Sevastopol, Crimea, Wednesday, March 19, 2014. An Associated Press photographer said several hundred militiamen took down the gate and made their way onto the base. They then raised the Russian flag on the square by the headquarters. The unarmed militia waited for an hour in the square before the move to storm the headquarters. Following the arrival of the commander of the Russian Black Sea fleet, the Crimeans took over the building. (AP Photo/Andrew Lubimov)

Ukrainian soldiers fold the Ukrainian flag, which was removed by a Crimean pro- Russian self-defense force at the Ukrainian Navy headquarters in Sevastopol, Crimea, Wednesday, March 19, 2014. An Associated Press photographer said several hundred militiamen took down the gate and made their way onto the base. They then raised the Russian flag on the square by the headquarters. The unarmed militia waited for an hour on the square before the move to storm the headquarters. Following the arrival of the commander of the Russian Black Sea fleet, the Crimeans took over the building. (AP Photo/Andrew Lubimov)

Members of a Pro-Russian self-defense force remove a Ukrainian Navy flag, left, as the other removes the Ukrainian flag at the Ukrainian Navy headquarters in Sevastopol, Crimea, Wednesday, March 19, 2014. An Associated Press photographer said several hundred militiamen took down the gate and made their way onto the base. They then raised the Russian flag in the square by the headquarters. The unarmed militia waited for an hour on the square before the move to storm the headquarters. Following the arrival of the commander of the Russian Black Sea fleet, the Crimeans took over the building. (AP Photo/Andrew Lubimov)

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SEVASTOPOL, Crimea (AP) — Surrendering to Russia’s inexorable seizure of Crimea, Ukraine announced plans Wednesday for mass troop withdrawals from the strategic peninsula as Moscow-loyal forces seized control of Kiev’s naval headquarters here and detained its commander.

Attempting to face down the unblinking incursion, Ukraine said it would hold joint military exercises with the United States and Britain.

Hours after masked Russian-speaking troops forced their way onto Ukraine’s main naval base here, forlorn Ukrainian soldiers streamed out carrying clothing and other belongings in bags. A group of local militia and Cossacks, later joined by officers from Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, looked on.

Just how many retreating troops Ukraine will have to absorb was unclear as many servicemen in Crimea have already switched sides to Russia, but authorities say it was prepared to relocate as many as 25,000 soldiers and their families.

Humbled but defiant, Ukraine lashed out symbolically at Russia by declaring its intent to leave the Moscow-dominated Commonwealth of Independent States, a loose alliance of 11 former Soviet nations. The last nation to leave the group was Georgia, which lost a brief war with neighboring Russia in 2008 and ended up losing two separatist territories.

Vice President Joe Biden, in Lithuania trying to reassure nations bordering Russia alarmed by the sight of an expansion-minded neighbor, said the U.S. would stand by them.

“We’re in this with you, together,” Biden said.

Ukraine has been powerless to prevent Russian troops from taking control of Crimea, which President Vladimir Putin formally annexed Tuesday with the stroke of a pen. Crimea’s absorption came after a hastily organized referendum in which the population overwhelmingly, albeit under conditions akin to martial law, voted in favor of seceding from Ukraine and joining Russia.

Russia’s Constitutional Court chairman, Valery Zorkin, said Wednesday the treaty signed by Putin has been ruled valid, meaning it now only requires ratification by the Russian parliament.

On Wednesday morning, militiamen under apparent Russian command barged their way into Ukraine’s naval headquarters in Sevastopol, detaining the head of Ukraine’s navy and seizing the facility. The incursion, which Ukraine’s Defense Ministry described as being led by a self-described local defense force, Cossacks and “aggressive women,” proceeded with no resistance.

Upon gaining entrance to the base, the storming party raised a Russian flag on the headquarters square.

The unarmed militiamen waited for an hour on the square and, following the arrival of the commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, they took over the building.

By afternoon, they were in full control of the naval headquarters, a set of three-story white concrete buildings with blue trim.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said Rear Adm. Sergei Haiduk was detained and a news agency close to the Russian-backed local authorities

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