Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the actions of Russian military forces in the Ukrainian region of Crimea have demonstrated the "high level of preparedness" in the Russian armed forces.
"Recent events in Crimea constituted a serious test [for the Russian military]. They demonstrated new qualitative abilities of our armed forces as well as high morale of the personnel," Putin said.
Speaking at a military awards ceremony in Moscow on March 28, Putin thanked the commanders and service personnel of the Black Sea Fleet and other units based in Crimea for their service and courage.
"I thank the commanders and officers of the Black Sea Fleet as well as other divisions and units based in Crimea for their stamina, personal heroism, for consistent and professional actions that enabled to prevent provocations, thwart bloodshed, and secure conditions for a peaceful and free referendum," Putin added.
He said the military had demonstrated its professionalism by avoiding provocations and preventing bloodshed during the process of Russia's internationally unrecognized annexation of the Black Sea peninsula.
Russia Hands Over 'Outdated' Equipment
Meanwhile, U.S. President Barack Obama said in an interview broadcast on March 28 that Russia was "massing" troops along its border with Ukraine "under the guise of military exercises."
Obama said Moscow might be just trying to intimidate Kyiv, but "it may be that they've got additional plans."
Putin also ordered Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to begin handing over to Ukraine all military equipment and weaponry belonging to units that have not joined the Russian military.
The Interfax military news agency reported that some 350 tanks and armored vehicles will be handed over to Ukraine. An unnamed source said they were mostly "outdated" equipment, "with no prospects of being used by the Russian armed forces."
Shoigu said on March 28 that all Ukrainian military installations in Crimea were under Russian control.
Also, Putin held a session of the Russian Security Council, presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
Peskov said the council decided to begin the process of withdrawing from a number of bilateral agreements with Ukraine regarding the status of Russia's Black Sea Fleet, including the agreement on basing signed in Kharkiv in April 2010.
With reporting by ITAR-TASS and Interfax