In the latest development in the tense situation between Ukraine and Russia, Moscow has sent S-400 missile systems to Crimea.
Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, and has now sent the advanced S-400 air defense missile system to the antiaircraft missile regiment in the area, according to Russian news agencies, including TASS.
Defense Ministry details deployment
The reports cited a statement from the Russian Defense Ministry.
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“The antiaircraft missile regiment of the 4th Air Force and Air Defense Army of the Southern Military District based in the Republic of Crimea has received a modern S-400 Triumf air defense missile system for operation,” the press office said.
“After the preparations are over and the rearmed regiment is redeployed, it will take part in the Caucaus-2016 strategic command and staff exercises,” the district’s press office said.
In mid-July a number of reports claimed that a new regiment of S-400 missiles would be deployed to Crimea in August.
Advanced missile systems in Crimea
The S-400 Triumf air defense missile system is the most advanced in Russia’s arsenal. It entered service in 2007 and can destroy aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles, as well as ground targets.
It can hit targets as much as 400 kilometers away, and 16 regiments are expected to be in service in the Russian Armed Forces by late this year.
The deployment comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin promised counter-measures in retaliation for fighting between Russian forces and so-called Ukrainian saboteurs in the north of Crimea. Ukrainian authorities have denied that any clashes happened.
The Russian military are carrying out exercises in the area, involving the Black Sea Fleet. There are more than 10 warships as well as MI-8 and Ka-27PS helicopters taking part in the exercises.
“During the drill we are going to practice the issues of both operational and technical support. These include operations to counter underwater sabotage, navigational and hydrographic exercise, search and rescue missions,” said Russian Navy Commander Admiral Viktor Chirkov.
Incidents spark fears of wider conflict
The security incidents in the Crimea have raised tensions between Moscow and Kiev. On Friday Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said that diplomatic relations with Ukraine could be severed over the incidents.
According to quotes in Russian state news agencies, Medvedev does not want to suspend relations, but “if there is no other way to change the situation, the president could take this step.”
On Wednesday the Russian Federal Security Service said that two Russians had died repelling a military incursion into Crimea by Ukrainian troops. However Ukraine’s defense intelligence said that claims of an incursion were based on “fake information.”
Putin announced on Wednesday that he had ordered security in Crimea to be improved. On Thursday the Kremlin said that a meeting had been held to discuss “additional measures for ensuring security for citizens and essential infrastructure in Crimea.”
“Scenarios were carefully considered for anti-terrorist security measures at the land border, in the waters and in the airspace of Crimea,” the statement read.
A closed door meeting was also held on Thursday by the UN Security Council, in order to discuss the worsening situation. The incidents have provoked fear of a wider conflict erupting in the region.
The Crimea used to belong to Ukraine before a referendum in March 2014 saw the population vote to rejoin the Russian Federation. Western politicians criticized Moscow for annexing territory from Ukraine.