KIEV, Ukraine — Two Russian generals have been visiting Ukrainian military bases in Crimea and offering soldiers there fat pay and pension packages if they join the Russian army before a Friday deadline, when Russia has said its patience with a Ukrainian presence in the Black Sea peninsula will run out.
A Ukrainian captain who was among the officers who met with the generals at a base in Perevalne, Crimea, said in a phone interview that at each base the generals make a very simple point: The Russian military would welcome Ukrainian troops into its ranks.
The captain said the possibility is lost on no one that the alternative is a grim one: Russia has said that on Friday, Ukrainian soldiers will be classified as bandits and terrorists and hunted by the vastly superior Russian military now on the peninsula.
The captain told McClatchy Newspapers that he expects many of his compatriots to accept the Russian offer, especially those who consider Crimea home.
"The pay is five times that offered by Ukraine," he said. "The pensions are five times better and will be offered 20 years sooner. We are told we would serve on the same military base, defend the same soil, the homeland of many at these bases. Families living quite nearby the bases will be able to remain in their same homes."
His report matched Ukrainian news reports, but there was no government confirmation from Russia or Ukraine.