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MOSCOW, March 24. /ITAR-TASS/. Ensuring security in Crimea that has become Russia’s ninth federal district puts on the agenda the task of strengthening the armed forces on the peninsula. The fact that Vladimir Putin appointed graduate of the Sevastopol Naval Engineer Academy, head of the JSC Slavyanka Oleg Belaventsev, who holds the rank of vice admiral, as Russian president’s plenipotentiary envoy to Crimea, is indicative.
Virtually all military facilities of the Ukrainian army in the Crimea are now controlled by Russia. As of March 22, Russian flags were hoisted at 189 military units and defense establishments that had belonged to the Ukrainian armed forces and that are stationed in Crimea. Moreover, military servicemen that want to join the Russian army, have been coming to Crimea from Ukraine, Crimean Information Minister Dmitry Polonsky said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed the decrees on the creation in Sevastopol, which has become Russia’s federal city, of the Black Sea Higher Naval School and the Presidential Cadet Academy. By a separate decree, the Russian president ordered to recognize the military ranks of the Crimean military and their education documents. Also, the diplomas, ranks and career length of the local law enforcement officers who expressed the desire to be transferred to Russia’s police, will be recognized.
Those officers who choose to stay to serve in Crimea will be allowed to continue to live in the apartments that they had got earlier. And the officers who want to leave military service or return to Ukraine will have to surrender the service apartments where their families live.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, for his part, set the task for the Russian Black Sea Fleet commander to provide the opportunity to the personnel of the Armed Forces of Ukraine that express the desire to leave the territory of the Republic of Crimea to have an organized exit to the Ukrainian territory. As of today, less than 2,000 people from more than 18,000 Ukrainian military stationed in the Republic of Crimea have expressed the desire to return to Ukraine.
After the signing of the decree on the recognition of Ukrainian military ranks, the commanders and officers of 72 Ukrainian military units, defense establishments and ships made the decision to voluntarily transfer to the Armed Forces of Russia. The Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council on Monday made a decision to remove the Ukrainian military from Crimea to mainland Ukraine.
The majority of the military in Crimea are Russian navy men who serve at the Black Sea base in Sevastopol and marines. The permitted number of troops is 25,000 men, but at the beginning of the year, only 13,000 were deployed there due to costly maintenance. Since the beginning of the year, the numerical strength of the Black Sea Fleet has increased, which was admitted by Russia's President Vladimir Putin in a speech devoted to the reunification with Crimea.
In addition to Russian military, several thousand Ukrainian troops continue to stay in Crimea - some 3,000 - 4,000. More than 7,000 Ukrainian military, according to first vice premier of the Crimean Peninsula Rustam Temirgaliyev, have already sworn allegiance to independent Crimea.
The troops of the recently created Defense Ministry of Crimea have also been officially armed. It currently comprises only 1,500 servicemen, but all of them are already preparing to be transferred to the Russian army.
“The factually final disarmament of the Ukrainian army in Crimea means that the Russian army .... will be fully focused on defending the peninsula from outside threats,” the Vedomosti newspaper quotes expert of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies Konstantin Makiyenko.
“Russia has to substantially strengthen its military presence in Crimea. As the peninsula has become Russia’s territory, a considerable build-up of troops above the strength of 25,000 servicemen permitted by the agreement on the Black Sea Fleet, can be expected here,” head of the Center for International Security at the Russian Academy of Sciences Alexei Arbatov told Itar-Tass in an interview.
For strengthening security of the peninsula and Black Sea Fleet, the submarine force will be restored in Crimea. A Russian Defense Ministry source told the RBC Daily that new submarines that would soon be delivered to the Black Sea Fleet would be included in the newly created squadron in Sevastopol.
“It is of no use to keep many submarines in Crimea, it would be enough to have a squadron or a unit. We do not need nuclear-powered submarines there - it’s dangerous, because states that are not very friendly towards Russia are located in the region, and provocations may take place,” believes Academician Arbatov.
“Most likely, Russia will strengthen its surface fleet - more combat ships and assault landing ships will be deployed in Crimea. All this is needed to mark out, to assert an important strategic disposition stronghold of the Russian Armed Forces,” the expert stressed.
“In response to a statement NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen made on Monday on the alliance’s intention to increase its military budget in connection with the developments around Ukraine, Russia will also have to take additional measures in order to reliably cover the Black Sea Fleet and the whole Crimea,” Arbatov said.
In his view, “Russia will first of all reinforce the peninsula’s air defense system with the S-300 and S-400 complexes, place in Crimea several brigades of artillery and ground forces. By these forced measures, Russia will prepare for possible encroachments by Ukraine or NATO countries that may try to turn back the course of history,” the expert concluded.
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