KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine's acting defence minister was dismissed on Tuesday over his handling of Russia's annexation of Crimea, after it emerged that less than a quarter of soldiers on the peninsula planned to stay in the Ukrainian military.
Ihor Tenyukh, appointed a month ago under an interim government that took power after the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovich, offered his resignation in a speech to parliament following criticism of the way Ukraine pulled its military out of Crimea.
Lawmakers initially rejected the offer but, after consultations between party faction leaders and parliament speaker and acting Ukrainian president Oleksander Turchinov, voted to remove him.
Critics said Tenyukh should have been quicker to order the pullout from Crimea, which began on Monday, to better safeguard Ukrainian servicemen, many of whom were trapped in their bases surrounded by Russian soldiers and local militiamen.
"Given that some may not like the actions I take ... I will not cling to my post," Tenyukh told parliament.
"If the leadership has a different view of developing events and other candidates, I, Acting Defence Minister General Tenyukh, offer my resignation."
Tenyukh said only 4,300 of Ukraine's 18,800 servicemen in the Black Sea peninsula - where a narrow majority of 2 million people are ethnic Russians - planned to remain in the Ukrainian armed forces.
Lawmakers elected Mykhailo Koval, head of the Ukrainian border guard, to replace Tenyukh.
"Tenyukh simply discredited himself with his unprofessional and inadequate actions in Crimea," said Volodymyr Fesenko, a political analyst at the Penta think tank in Kiev.
He said Tenyukh had "left the military to its fate" by not withdrawing forces sooner.
(Reporting by Natalia Zinets and Pavel Polityuk; Writing by Matt Robinson; Editing by Kevin Liffey)