Putin moves in big guns to checkmate Ukraine

Kiev begins 2-day missile tests, angering neighbour, which put its air defence forces on high alert, saying it hopes the war games won’t disrupt in’tl flights

Kiev: Warships from Russia’s Black Sea Fleet have taken up position off Crimea’s western coastline to help strengthen the peninsula’s air defences in response to the start of Ukrainian missile tests nearby, the RIA news agency reported yesterday. Kiev began two days of missile tests on Thursday, angering Russia, which has put its air defence forces on high alert, saying it hopes the war games won’t disrupt international flights.

Warships of the Black Sea Fleet have taken up positions near Crimea’s western coast for the duration of Ukraine’s planned missile tests from December 1-2,” a military source in Crimea told RIA.

“The ship’s air defence units have been put on a higher state of alert. Their equipment is designed in the first instance to shoot down heavy anti-ship missiles and cruise missiles. Together with land-based air defence units on the peninsula, the ships have thrown up a practically impenetrable shield against the enemy’s rockets.”

Vladimir Krizhanovsky, a Ukrainian military official, earlier yesterday told the 112 TV channel that the exercises had begun and that everything was going smoothly. “The tests are being carried out in accordance with international law,” said Krizhanovsky. He added that they were taking place at least 30 km from Crimean air space. “Therefore, it would be wrong to reproach Ukraine,” he said.

Ukraine’s military said its missile drill would avoid the airspace over Crimea, sidestepping a possible confrontation with Russia.
News of the tests had angered the Kremlin, prompting it to put its air defence forces on high alert and manoeuvre warships in the Black Sea. The disagreement marked a fresh escalation in tensions between the neighbours and one-time allies, whose relations collapsed after Russia seized Crimea and backed pro-Russian separatists fighting in eastern Ukraine.

Russia will defend its interests: Putin
President Vladimir Putin said yesterday that Russia would stand up for its own interests, but had no intention of getting involved in any geopolitical confrontations. “We are not seeking enemies. We need friends,” Putin said during his annual state of the nation address in the Kremlin. He added that Russia would not tolerate any attempts to damage its interests, however.

France worried by warships, urges restraint
France called for restraint between Russia and Ukraine after warships from Moscow’s Black Sea Fleet took up position off Crimea’s western coastline. “France is concerned about the deployment of Russian warships off Crimea’s coastline,” Foreign ministry spokesman Romain Nadal told reporters. “We call on all parties to refrain from all escalation and urge dialogue to which France is ready to contribute in all possible ways.”

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