Moscow to de­ploy new mis­siles in Crimea

Global Times US Edition - - WORLD -

Rus­sia said on Wed­nes­day it would send more of its ad­vanced S-400 sur­face-to-air mis­sile sys­tems to Crimea and a Reuters re­porter saw a Rus­sian war­ship de­ploy­ing nearby as ten­sions with Ukraine rose over Moscow’s seizure of Ukrainian navy ships.

Rus­sia has steadily poured new mil­i­tary hard­ware into Crimea since 2014, turn­ing it into what me­dia have called a fortress.

Moscow’s an­nounce­ment about new mis­siles fol­lows its seizure of three Ukrainian naval ves­sels and their crews on Sun­day over what it said was their il­le­gal en­try into Rus­sian wa­ters, some­thing Ukraine de­nies.

Kiev in­tro­duced mar­tial law in parts of the coun­try af­ter the in­ci­dent, say­ing it feared a pos­si­ble Rus­sian in­va­sion.

The episode risks de­rail­ing a meet­ing be­tween US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin at the G20 in Ar­gentina later this week.

Trump is sched­uled to meet Putin at the G20 sum­mit in Buenos Aires at the end of this week, but warned it would de­pend on the results of a re­port be­ing pre­pared by his na­tional se­cu­rity ad­vis­ers about Rus­sia’s seizure of three Ukrainian ships.

“Maybe I won’t have the meet­ing. Maybe I won’t even have the meet­ing,” he told the Washington Post on Tues­day.

But the Krem­lin said on Wed­nes­day it thought it was still on.

Vadim Astafyev, a spokesper­son for Rus­sia’s south­ern mil­i­tary dis­trict, was cited by Rus­sian news agen­cies on Wed­nes­day as say­ing that a new bat­tal­ion of S-400 mis­siles would be de­liv­ered to Crimea soon and be­come op­er­a­tional by the end of the year.

The de­ploy­ment is likely to have been long-planned, but the tim­ing of the an­nounce­ment ap­peared de­signed to send a mes­sage to Ukraine and the West that Rus­sia is se­ri­ous about de­fend­ing what it re­gards as its own ter­ri­tory and wa­ters.

Crimea al­ready hosts three bat­tal­ions of the anti-air­craft mis­sile sys­tems which have a range of up to 400 kilo­me­ters al­low­ing Rus­sia to con­trol large swaths of the skies above the Black Sea.

The new de­ploy­ment would al­low it to in­crease its air de­fence cov­er­age area.

The US has pre­vi­ously said that Rus­sia’s de­ploy­ment of the mis­sile sys­tems to Crimea is “not good.”

Cit­ing sources in Ukraine’s rul­ing cir­cles, Rus­sia’s Izves­tia news­pa­per re­ported that Kiev had been try­ing to per­suade Washington – so far un­suc­cess­fully – to open a mil­i­tary base in Ukraine.

Reuters could not in­de­pen­dently con­firm the re­port.

Later on Wed­nes­day a Crimean court was due to or­der the de­ten­tion of nine of the 24 cap­tured Ukrainian sailors – in­clud­ing se­nior Ukrainian naval of­fi­cers and at least one mem­ber of Ukraine’s SBU in­tel­li­gence agency.

A court in Sim­fer­opol, the cap­i­tal of Crimea, on Tues­day or­dered the other 15 Ukrainian sailors to be de­tained for two months pend­ing a pos­si­ble trial.

All of the sailors face jail terms of up to six years if found guilty of what Moscow says was a plot to il­le­gally cross the Rus­sian bor­der by try­ing to pass through the Rus­sian-con­trolled Kerch Strait on Sun­day with­out ad­vance no­tice and ig­nor­ing calls to stop.

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