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Iran Press TV

Russia deploys ten fighter jets to Crimea amid rising tensions with Ukraine

Iran Press TV

Mon Dec 17, 2018 06:19PM

Russia has deployed a number of fighter jets to the Crimean Peninsula amid rising tensions with Ukraine, following remarks by the country's foreign minister that Kiev was planning an "armed provocation" in the coming weeks and before the end of the year.

Russian news agency Interfax said on Monday that Moscow had sent more than 10 Sukhoi SU-27 and SU-30 fighter jets to the overhauled Belbek air base in Crimea as part of a "permanent deployment."

The announcement came after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview that Ukraine was preparing an "armed provocation with Russia on the border with Crimea during the last ten days of December."

The state-run TASS news agency quoted Lavrov as saying that Moscow would not allow the Ukrainian government to act on those plans and "they will regret it."

The top Russian diplomat also said that his country "will not wage war against Ukraine," and accused Kiev of having "Nazi characteristics."

"We are not fighting the Ukrainian regime," Lavrov said. "It is Ukrainian citizens living in Donbass who are fighting against the Ukrainian regime, which has full Nazi and neo-Nazi characteristics."

Crimea voted for reunification with Russia in 2014, following deep political changes in Kiev where a pro-Western movement staged weeks of street protests that led to the ouster of the pro-Russia government.

People in Crimea and in the industrial eastern territories of Ukraine, areas which are dominated by ethnic Russians, effectively refused to endorse the new administration in Kiev. Crimea decided to rejoin Russia in a referendum in March 2014 and two provinces in the east revolted by establishing self-declared republics.

Pro-Russians have turned the two regions of Donetsk and Lugansk in the east – collectively known as the Donbass – into self-proclaimed republics.

The West and Kiev lambast the reunification as annexation of the territory by Russia, accusing Moscow of having a hand in the bloody conflict in eastern Ukraine. Moscow, however, strongly dismisses both accusations.

The fighting has left over 10,000 people dead and more than a million others displaced, according to the United Nations.

Ties between the two countries further strained in November after Russia seized three Ukrainian naval ships that had illegally entered the Russian waters off the coast of the Crimean Peninsula.

The Sea of Azov is a strategic ocean route linked to the Black Sea by the narrow Strait of Kerch where Russia has built a bridge to link the Crimean Peninsula with the mainland.

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