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Ukraine crisis: Claims of Russia army in Crimea are 'nonsense', says defence minister

Published on Mar 5, 2014 9:58 PM
 
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu (left) said on Wednesday, Mar 5, 2014, that photographs from Crimea of military vehicles with Russian number plates and video of an armed man claiming he is Russian were a "provocation" and "nonsense". -- PHOTO: AFP

MOSCOW (AFP) - Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Wednesday that photographs from Crimea of military vehicles with Russian number plates and video of an armed man claiming he is Russian were a "provocation" and "nonsense."

Mr Shoigu was responding to questions about photographs taken in Crimea that apparently show off-road vehicles used by the Russian army with Russian number plates, and also video of one of the armed men patrolling a Ukrainian military base near the Russian border, who claimed "We are Russian citizens."

"Of course this is a provocation," Mr Shoigu said of photographs showing vehicles with Russian number plates, cited by ITAR-TASS news agency.

Asked about videos showing armed forces identifying themselves as Russian, he said curtly: "No, of course not, complete nonsense."

Asked how forces described by Russia as local self defence groups could have Lynx and Tiger vehicles of the type used by the Russian army, Mr Shoigu said: "I have no idea."

UkrStream.tv, a Ukrainian news website, published a video on YouTube on Tuesday featuring a man in camouflage and a helmet speaking Russian.

"We are Russian citizens," the man says, adding "we are carrying out a security operation, so that there are no terrorist attacks."

The video was reposted on the website of Russian news agency Interfax on Wednesday.

Russian opposition magazine The New Times published on Tuesday on its website a photograph that it said showed a Tigr, or Tiger, off-road vehicle with Russian number plates taken by a Ukrainian news agency photographer.

Russian news website Gazeta.ru wrote in a reportage published on Tuesday that "on the approach to Simferopol in the village of Chistenkoye are 30 Lynx vehicles."

Several videos posted on YouTube have shown columns of armoured vehicles with Russian number plates apparently driving along roads in Crimea.