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Ukraine makes plans to pull troops from Crimea

Posted: March 19, 2014 at 8:46 a.m.
Updated: March 19, 2014 at 1:10 p.m.

Members of the Crimean pro-Russian self-defense forces climb up to take down a Ukrainian flag, right, and a Ukrainian navy flag, left, at the Ukrainian navy headquarters in Sevastopol, Crimea, on 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. In center is a Russian flag.

KIEV, Ukraine — Ukraine's government said Wednesday that it has begun drawing up plans to pull its troops from Crimea, where Russia is steadily taking formal control as its armed forces seize military installations across the disputed peninsula.

In a warning to Moscow, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden declared the United States will respond to any aggression against its NATO allies, which include neighbors to Russia.

Standing side by side with a pair of Baltic leaders in Vilnius, Lithuania, Biden said the U.S. was "absolutely committed" to defending its allies, adding that President Barack Obama plans to seek concrete commitments from NATO members to ensure the alliance can safeguard its collective security.

"Russia cannot escape the fact that the world is changing and rejecting outright their behavior," Biden said, after meeting in Vilnius with Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite and Latvian President Andris Berzins.

Earlier Wednesday, masked Russian-speaking troops seized control over Ukraine's naval headquarters in the city of Sevastopol. A Ukrainian navy commander was also detained during that operation.

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