Russia said on Wednesday it would send more of its advanced S-400 surface-to-air missile systems to Crimea and a Reuters reporter saw a Russian warship deploying nearby as tensions with Ukraine rose over Moscow’s seizure of Ukrainian navy ships.
Russia has steadily poured new military hardware into Crimea since it annexed it from Ukraine in 2014, turning it into what Kremlin-backed media have called a fortress.
Moscow’s announcement about new missiles follows its seizure of three Ukrainian naval vessels and their crews on Sunday over what it said was their illegal entry into Russian waters, something Ukraine denies.
Kiev introduced martial law in parts of the country after the incident, saying it feared a possible Russian invasion, according to Reuters.
The episode risks derailing a meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 in Argentina later this week. Trump said on Tuesday that he might cancel the meeting due to the incident, but the Kremlin said on Wednesday it thought it was still on.
Vadim Astafyev, a spokesman for Russia’s southern military district, was cited by Russian news agencies on Wednesday as saying that a new battalion of S-400 missiles would be delivered to Crimea soon and become operational by the end of the year.
The deployment is likely to have been long-planned, but the timing of the announcement appeared designed to send a message to Ukraine and the West that Russia is serious about defending what it regards as its own territory and waters.
Crimea already hosts three battalions of the anti-aircraft missile systems which have a range of up to 400 km (250 miles) allowing Russia to control large swaths of the skies above the Black Sea.
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