NATO accuses Russia of militarizing Crimea
Iran Press TV
Mon Mar 9, 2015 5:7PM
A top NATO general has accused Russia of having militarized Crimea, the former Ukrainian peninsula that joined Russia after a referendum last year.
"What we've seen is easy to describe as the militarization of Crimea," NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Philip Breedlove, said in an interview with Ukrainian channel 1+1, which was broadcast on Sunday.
"They've brought an air capability, they've increased their capability to project sea power from there," he said, adding, "We see very capable surface-to-air defense systems that range about 40 percent of the Black Sea and we've seen very sophisticated missile defense systems that range almost the entire Black Sea."
"Crimea has become very much a power projection platform," Breedlove said.
The Moscow-West relations sharply strained after the Black Sea peninsula joined the Russian Federation following a referendum in March 2014.
Relations were strained further after Ukraine launched military operations in mid-April 2014 to silence pro-Russia protests in the country's mainly Russian-speaking regions of Donetsk and Lugansk in eastern Ukraine.
Violence intensified last May after the two flashpoint regions held local referendums in which their residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence from Ukraine.
The US and NATO accuse Moscow of involvement in the turmoil in eastern Ukraine and have imposed a series of sanctions against Russian and pro-Russia figures. Moscow, however, rejects the accusation.
On Thursday, NATO's Deputy Secretary-General Alexander Vershbow (seen above) claimed Russia had a military presence in violence-wracked eastern Ukraine.
"Russian soldiers are fighting and dying in large numbers in eastern Ukraine," said Vershbow in the Latvian capital city of Riga.
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