Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has again emphasized in new comments addressing a board meeting of the Russian Defense Ministry on Tuesday that the amassing of additional troops in the south, specifically Crimea and near the border with Ukraine, is being undertaken in response to NATO's own destabilizing maneuvers in the region.
What he a week ago called "readiness drills" remains necessary for "strategic deterrence," he said in the latest remarks. This is in direct contradiction to Ukrainian and US officials' claims that the Kremlin may be preparing some kind of "offensive". For example on Monday Pentagon Press Secretary said the mustering of Russian troops which is "bigger" even than in 2014 has resulted in a "violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity." He said this based on the Biden administration position that Crimea belongs to Ukraine.
Shoigu said in the Tuesday meeting that "Nato’s attempts to destabilize situation in the Middle East and Transcaucasian region force Russia to take symmetric measures of strategic deterrence," according to an Interfax citation by Bloomberg.
Meanwhile, Russia's Navy continues flexing just days after it shut the vital Kerch Strait which Ukrainian vessels frequently use to enter the Black Sea. Russia said foreign military vessels cannot pass through for six months, but remains open to commercial and trade maritime traffic. TASS reports new military drills in the Black Sea on Tuesday as follows:
Over 20 Black Sea Fleet warships held a joint exercise with the crews of Su-25SM3 attack aircraft of the Southern Military District’s Air Force and Air Defense Army in a final inspection of the Fleet’s forces after the winter training period, the Fleet’s press office reported on Tuesday.
The press statement further noted after a fresh 'redeployment' to Crimea of over 50 aircraft of the Southern Military District, fighter jets are practicing flights at "extremely low altitudes".
"The pilots conducted flights at extremely low altitudes in complex weather conditions. The exercise was held in compliance with a plan of the final check of the Black Sea Fleet’s forces for the winter training period under a common tactical design of the Southern Military District’s control inspection," TASS reported.
Ukraine's government on Tuesday is now saying 120,000 Russian troops will soon be placed on its borders...
Ukraine says Russia will soon have over 120,000 troops on its borders https://t.co/xI4WytcIeu pic.twitter.com/pyYyJzZ6HT
— Reuters U.S. News (@ReutersUS) April 20, 2021
At this point estimates of Russia's troop build-up in the south have varied widely - ranging from a few tens of thousands of extra troops in the region, to Kiev last week alleging 80,000... all the way up to 100,000-150,000 range offered by the EU on Monday. But there's been little to nothing in the way of actual evidence showing how these large numbers have been arrived at.
Both sides continue to blame the other for renewed intensifying conflict in eastern Ukraine's Donbass region, which has resulted in recent Ukrainian troop deaths, after years of stalemate going back to the height of war in 2014 and 2015.
Tue, 04/20/2021 - 11:14