- Just days after a major clash between Russia and Ukraine, the Russian military has announced plans to send more S-400 surface-to-air missile systems into Crimea.
- Russian ships rammed a Ukrainian tugboat and fired on two Ukrainian gunboats in the Sea of Azov on Sunday, causing tensions between Russia and Ukraine to reach levels not seen since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.
- Ukraine described the latest incident as evidence of Russian aggression, with the Ukrainian president saying his country faced a threat of “full-scale war” with Russia.
The Russian military on Wednesday announced plans to deploy advanced antiaircraft missiles to the Crimean Peninsula amid rising tensions between Moscow and Kiev.
A division of S-400 Triumph surface-to-air missiles will be sent to Crimea for “combat duty,” the state-backed Tass news agency reported Wednesday, citing information provided by the Southern Military District’s press service. “In the near future, the new system will enter combat duty to defend Russia’s airspace, replacing the previous air defense system,” a representative told the official news agency.
Sputnik News, another Russian media outlet owned by the Russian government, indicated that this would be the fourth S-400 air-defense battalion the country deployed to Crimea. The S-400 surface-to-air missile system is one of the world’s most advanced air-defense systems, able to target aircraft, missiles, and even ground targets.
A column of what appeared to be anti-ship missile systems was spotted on a highway headed toward the Crimean city of Kerch on Tuesday, the Russian state-funded television network RT reported.
News of missile deployments to Crimea come just a couple of days after a serious naval clash between Russia and Ukraine on Sunday in the Sea of Azov, which is shared territorial waters under a 2003 treaty signed by the two countries.
During Sunday’s confrontation, Russian vessels rammed a Ukrainian tugboat and opened fire on two other ships before seizing the boats and taking their crew members into custody.
Russia asserts that the ships, which were traveling to the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol from Odessa by way of the Kerch Strait, failed to request authorization and engaged in dangerous maneuvers. Moscow has yet to provide evidence to support these claims.
Ukraine argues that the incident was evidence of Russian aggression and released a video from aboard one of the Russian ships that Ukrainian authorities intercepted. In the video, the Russian sailors can be heard shouting “crush him” as the Russian vessel rams the Ukrainian tugboat.
Two dozen Ukrainian sailors are being held in detention. Half of that group will be held for at least two months, with the whole facing up to six years in prison, according to news reports.
NATO has condemned Russia’s actions. The US mission to the United Nations said Russia had committed “an arrogant act that the international community must condemn and will never accept.”
“I don’t want anyone to think this is fun and games. Ukraine is under threat of full-scale war with Russia,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Tuesday, adding that the number of Russian units stationed along the border had “grown dramatically.”
Ukraine has declared martial law in some regions that began taking effect Wednesday.