Russia deploys air missile system in Crimea

Ukrainian soldiers watching Sukhoi Su-24 front-line bombers during military aviation drills in the Rivne region in Ukraine on Wednesday.
Ukrainian soldiers watching Sukhoi Su-24 front-line bombers during military aviation drills in the Rivne region in Ukraine on Wednesday.PHOTO: REUTERS

Move comes after Kiev accuses Moscow of stoking further unrest

MOSCOW • Russia has deployed its advanced S-400 air defence missile system to the disputed Crimean peninsula, Russian news agencies reported yesterday, hours after Ukraine accused Russia of planning to stoke further unrest.

The reports, citing a statement from the Russian Defence Ministry, come two days after President Vladimir Putin promised to take countermeasures, following what he said were clashes between Russian forces and Ukrainian saboteurs in northern Crimea.

Russia's FSB security service said on Wednesday that it had thwarted "terrorist attacks" in Crimea this week by Ukrainian military intelligence and beaten back armed assaults, claims that Kiev has fiercely denied.

Both sides have since stepped up security in the peninsula, whose annexation by Moscow in 2014 saw relations plunge to a post-Cold War nadir and served as the prelude to armed conflict between pro-Russian rebels and government troops in Ukraine's east.

"The enemy is planning large-scale provocative actions through the contact line in Ukraine's east and then will accuse Ukraine of not complying with the Minsk agreements," Ukraine's military intelligence directorate said in a statement, referring to a peace deal signed in the Belarusian capital in February last year.

It also accused Russia of boosting its forces, replenishing its munitions and building up military hardware in the war-scarred east.

Ukraine's security service yesterday raised the terrorist threat level to the highest in Crimea and the eastern regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, where pro-Russian rebels have been fighting government troops for more than two years.

Moscow said that Kiev's alleged attempts at armed incursions into Crimea saw a Russian security service officer killed in clashes while arresting "terrorists" overnight on Aug 6- 7.

Another Russian soldier died in a firefight with "sabotage-terrorist" groups sent by the Ukrainian military on Monday, Moscow claimed.

Ukrainian national security council chief Oleksandr Turchynov yesterday dismissed the claims, saying Moscow was trying to cover up deadly shoot-outs between Russian forces "who traditionally abuse alcohol".

During a closed-door meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Thursday, Ukraine asked Russia to provide evidence to back its accusations, which Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had called "senseless and cynical".

Mr Putin said a mooted meeting with Mr Poroshenko and mediators German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande at next month's G-20 summit in China was now "senseless".

A German government official said on Thursday that Mr Putin's rejection of a four-way summit on Ukraine was a "sign that Russia is less and less counting on a political solution to the crisis".

The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Thursday that Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told his Russian counterpart, Mr Sergey Lavrov, that France and Germany would "continue efforts aimed at implementing the Minsk agreements in the Normandy format", which includes the four countries.

The United States also called on both sides to show restraint, with State Department spokesman Elizabeth Trudeau saying on Thursday that Washington was "extremely concerned".

"This is a very tense time," Ms Trudeau told reporters in Washington late on Thursday.

"It's time to take a step back, we're calling on all sides to reduce."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 13, 2016, with the headline 'Russia deploys air missile system in Crimea'. Print Edition | Subscribe