President: Russian forces grow at border
Russia is building up its land forces and weapons along the border, Ukraine’s president said Saturday. Tensions between Russia and Ukraine were still escalating a week after a naval clash in the Black Sea on Nov. 25 in which Russia fired on three Ukrainian naval ships then seized them and their 24 crew members.
Speaking at a Ukrainian military event, President Petro Poroshenko said Russia has deployed “more than 80,000 troops, 1,400 artillery and multiple rocket launch systems, 900 tanks, 2,300 armored combat vehicles, 500 aircraft and 300 helicopters” along their common border. These numbers, which have not been verified, would account for the vast majority of men and hardware assigned to Russia’s Western Military District.
The naval clash came as the Ukrainian ships sailed to the Kerch Strait, the only waterway leading into the Sea of Azov and the site of a new key Russian bridge linking occupied Crimea with the Russian mainland. A 2003 Russia-Ukraine agreement designates the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait as shared internal waters. But following Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, Moscow has asserted greater control over the passage.