SIMFEROPOL, March 4 (RIA Novosti) – The newly appointed leader of Crimea in southern Ukraine said Tuesday that the region is to form its own defense ministry.
Local security forces including the police and army, which previously were commanded from Kiev, will be brought under the regional government’s control, Sergei Aksyonov said.
Aksyonov, appointed prime minister in a local parliamentary vote last week, told reporters that a referendum on the autonomous republic’s status might be considered earlier than the previously announced March 30.
But he did not specify when the new Defense Ministry would be formed and who would head it.
Aksyonov, a pro-Moscow businessman turned politician, announced earlier that Crimea would have its own navy, to be headed by Rear Admiral Denis Berezovsky.
Berezovsky was appointed head of Ukraine’s national navy on March 1, but he swore allegiance to the region over the weekend.
Crimea, a majority ethnic Russian region that hosts a large Russian naval base, has seen large deployments of apparently Russia-commanded troops in recent days following the overthrow of the government in Kiev by the opposition.
Moscow has called the occupation a peace-keeping operation aimed at protecting the civilian population, but Western nations have roundly condemned it as an act of aggression.