Ukrainian defence minister sacked over Crimea handling

Tuesday 25 March 2014 22.22
Dismissal of Defence Minister Igor Tenyukh was passed by vote in Ukrainian parliament
Dismissal of Defence Minister Igor Tenyukh was passed by vote in Ukrainian parliament

Ukraine's acting defence minister Admiral Igor Tenyukh has been sacked over his handling of the Crimea crisis following Russia's annexation of the Black Sea peninsula.

228 deputies in the 450-seat Verkhovna Rada parliament supported the measure in a vote taken shortly after Admiral Tenyukh tendered his resignation.

Deputies then quickly voted to appoint Lieutenant General Mykhailo Koval as the new acting defence minister after his name was submitted for parliamentary approval by acting President Oleksander Turchynov.

Lt Gen Koval had made news earlier this month when he was briefly abducted by pro-Kremlin militias near his military base in the Crimean port of Yalta.

Crimea's effective loss – though recognised by no major Western power – has dealt a heavy psychological blow to many Ukrainians who have already spent the past years mired in economic malaise.

Ukraine's ground commanders in Crimea had complained of indecision and confusion among the naval and army brass in Kiev since Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision on 1 March to seek the right to use force against his neighbour in response to last month's fall in Kiev of a pro-Kremlin regime.

Admiral Tenyukh acknowledged the public discontent in an address to parliament shortly before the vote.

"It seems that the actions of the interim defence minister in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea... has displeased some," he said.

"I have never clung on to my job, and I don't intend to do so now," he said. "I have honour."

Ukraine yesterday ordered its outnumbered troops to withdraw from Crimea following the peninsula's lightning seizure and annexation by Russia.

Russian forces have been seizing Ukrainian military bases in the Black Sea peninsula, often without having to put up a fight.

They stormed the last naval vessel still flying the Ukrainian flag this afternoon.

The raid on the Cherkasy trawler occurred one day after Russian forces took control of the Kostyantyn Olshanskiy, which, like the Cherkasy, had been blocked by Russian ships in western Crimea's Donuzlav Lake.