DZHANKOY, Crimea — For the proud Ukrainian marines of Feodosia, the end of their service in Crimea was rushed and undignified.
They left behind their uniforms, their weapons, their armored personnel carriers and even the Ukrainian flag that had flown from a pole next to the base headquarters.
“All we have is a lantern and some Snickers,” said Lt. Anatoly Mosgovy, reached by phone in a series of short calls from a reporter tailing a convoy of marines in private cars escorted by Russians and pro-Russian “civil defense” members as they approached Crimea’s border with Ukraine.
Barely half a day after the Feodosia base was taken over by Russian troops, several dozen of the bitter and dispirited marines were heading home to the Ukrainian mainland. Officials in Kiev on Monday ordered a troop withdrawal that was effectively a surrender, but some soldiers and sailors in Crimea said they were waiting to receive official orders to withdraw. In the confusion, servicemen are making individual decisions on when to leave.
For the marines in Feodosia, the morning started shortly before dawn, when Russian troops that had surrounded the base for several weeks moved in to take it over. They led several dozen marines away with their hands bound, according to a Ukrainian Defense Ministry official, and took away the commander and deputy commander in helicopters. Their welfare remains uncertain, partly because the marines were scattered and went to their homes or somewhere else so it was impossible to keep track of everyone.
Some marines have decided to remain in Crimea and join the armed forces of the Russian Federation. But that left several dozen Ukrainians summarily evicted from their base with no place else to go. Lacking alternatives, they decided on their own it was time to go.
Mosgovy, the Ukrainian lieutenant, said Russian troops were flinging insults at the marines and did not give those who chose to leave Monday the opportunity to pack many personal possessions.
So they grabbed a few items within reach and piled into seven cars and a bus. The convoy left Feodosia around 4:30 p.m., led by a car carrying what appeared to be Russian or Crimean officers in camouflage uniforms and bracketed by two trucks of men in track suits and other civilian clothing — members of Crimean “self defense” units that Mosgovy called “rabid dogs in a truck.”
One of the cars had a Ukrainian flag that flapped in the wind from outside the right passenger window. Other than that, there was nothing to suggest it was anything more than a bunch of cars that happened to be driving behind a military truck.
A Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesman issued a stirring description of Ukrainian defiance amid another Russian takeover Monday. Vladislav Seleznyov said the crew of a ship that has been blockaded in Donuslav Bay disembarked after singing the Ukrainian national anthem while a small crowd on the shores cheered them on by shouting “Glory to Ukraine. Glory to our heroes.”
There was none of that for the Feodosia marines. As their convoy moved swiftly through the flat Crimean countryside, they passed billboards showing campaign slogans from a March 16 referendum in which voters overwhelmingly decided to join Russia. “Together with Russia” read one billboard, already starting to fray in the weather.
“We’re upset and sad because they didn’t let us take our equipment and our flag,” Mosgovy said.
The convoy reached the border around 6:30 p.m., and they passed without problems, said Mosgovy in a phone call after he arrived in Ukraine. A deputy from the Ukrainian parliament and a representative from the Defense Ministry were on the other side to meet them.
“We’re happy and proud that they came for us,” Mosgovy said.
More Ukrainian troops are expected to leave before the week is over.