Russia rehearses swiftly moving military hardware to Crimea
MOSCOW – Reuters
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the Security Council in Crimea, August 19, 2016. REUTERS photoRussian naval and land forces have practiced swiftly moving military hardware and troops to annexed Crimea as part of a logistics exercise which foreshadows much larger war games there next month, the Russian Defense Ministry said.
The training exercise comes at a time of heightened tension between Russia and Ukraine after Moscow accused Kiev of sending saboteurs into the contested peninsula to carry out a series of bombings. Kiev has flatly denied that.
Russian President Vladimir Putin flew into Crimea on Aug. 19 where he planned to hold a meeting of his Security Council.
The Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement issued late on Aug. 18 that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu had observed part of the training exercise which took place in the Russian port of Novorossiisk.
It said specialized logistic troops had cooperated with Russian Railways and the country’s merchant fleet to rehearse moving troops, armor and technical equipment to Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
Vessels from Russia’s Black Sea Fleet had also taken part, including a submarine, a large landing ship, mine-sweepers and an unspecified number of guided missile cruisers. Around 2,500 troops and up to 350 armored vehicles had also been involved.
Shoigu had observed how quickly logistics troops were able to organize the loading of armored vehicles and landing troops onto a large landing ship and how quickly they could re-arm a mine-sweeper and a submarine, the ministry said.
“Training on how to destroy groups of saboteurs and how to repel underwater attacks was carried out,” said the ministry.
“Sergei Shoigu rated highly the logistic troops’ actions and the fact that they were able to rapidly organize the movement of significant amounts of hardware to Crimea.”
It said the exercises, which also took place in a number of other locations, began on Aug. 16 and would end on Aug. 20.
Russia’s main military exercise for this year - Caucasus 2016 - is due to take place next month and will also involve Crimea and Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.
Merkel sees no end to EU sanctions against Russia
Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that there was no reason to lift the European Union’s sanctions against Russia as Moscow has not fulfilled all of its commitments under the Minsk peace plan.
Merkel told the RedaktionsNetzwerks Deutschland (RND) that Russia had caused a major crisis by annexing the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea in 2014 and with its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.
“Europe had to react against this violation of basic principles,” Merkel said.
She added that she and French President Francois Hollande were working “with all one’s strength” to urge Ukraine and Russia to implement the Minsk cease-fire agreement despite all the difficulties.
“This is and remains the yardstick for the future of the sanctions,” Merkel said.
The EU agreed in June to extend energy, financial and defense sanctions on Russia over the conflict in Ukraine until the end of January next year.