Ukraine's Interior Ministry says a prominent member of a radical nationalist movement in Ukraine that played a key role in recent anti-government demonstrations was killed during a police operation to detain him.

Right Sector's Oleksandr Muzychko, better known by his nom de guerre Sashko Bily, had become a recurring figure in Russian attempts to portray Ukraine's interim government as dominated by radical nationalists. Moscow has cited the purported influence of groups like Right Sector to justify the absorption of Crimea.

Many in Ukraine downplay Right Sector's importance, however, and argue that it has negligible influence. Police say Muzychko was sought for organized crime links, hooliganism and for threatening public officials.

Ukraine's new government has struggled to exert authority since last month's overthrow of Russian-supported President Viktor Yanukovych.

The Interior Ministry said Tuesday that Muzychko was shot dead after opening fire on police.

Defence minister dismissed

Also Tuesday, Ukraine’s parliament dismissed acting Defence Minister Ihor Tenyukh in a second vote, having earlier rejected his offer to resign over his handling of Russia's annexation of Crimea.

Many Ukrainian servicemen complained they were left with no guidance as pro-Russian forces blocked them in their own bases, before seizing the facilities. Kyiv recalled thousands of troops from Crimea on Monday, telling to come back to protect mainland Ukraine from any further potential incursion.

In address to parliament, Igor Tenyukh said he rejected criticism that he had failed to issue clear instructions to troops, but that he reserved the right to step down.

The repeat vote followed consultations between party faction leaders and Ukraine's acting president and parliamentary speaker.

Lawmakers elected Mykhailo Koval, head of the Ukrainian border guard, to replace Tenyukh.

In Crimea, Ukrainian soldiers piled onto buses and began their journey to the mainland on Tuesday, as former comrades saluted them from outside a base overrun by Russian forces.

Tenyukh said he had received requests from about 6,500 soldiers and their family members to leave Crimea. The remaining two-thirds of the some 18,800 soldiers based in Crimea will stay on the peninsula and take their chances under Russian rule.

With files from Reuters and CBC News