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MOSCOW, March 30. /TASS/. The force grouping in Crimea has been set up not only to defend Russia’s interests on the peninsula and in the Black Sea, it is also capable of performing tasks in the off-shore maritime zone, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said on Monday.
"The created [Crimea] force grouping not only defends Russia’s interests in the Black Sea area and in the Crimean Federal District, it can also successfully accomplish missions in the off-shore maritime zone," he said.
The minister noted that nearly 100 units and organizations had been created by the end of last year under a program for deploying a self-sufficient group of forces in Crimea.
"On presidential orders we were instructed to deploy a self-sufficient combined group of forces in the Crimean Peninsula capable of effectively protecting the interests of Russia in this area. That task had been fulfilled by the end of 2014. A corresponding report was presented to the supreme commander-in-chief. Ninety six units and organizations were formed," Shoigu said.
In addition, "we have now organized the complete combat training of the Air Force of the Crimean group, the operational strength of the antiaircraft defense duty forces has been reinforced," Shoigu said. According to him, the construction of new facilities in five military towns continues on the peninsula, and the rest buildings are undergoing capital repairs.
The four-star US General Philip Breedlove, NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, is concerned with Russian efforts to strengthen the defense capability of Russia’s Crimean peninsula. At his recent meeting with journalists, General Breedlove said that NATO had noticed significant changes in the deployment of weapons in Crimea. Russian anti-aircraft systems are controlling approximately half of the Black Sea while "surface to surface" missiles are covering its area completely. These anti-aircraft systems, Breedlove said, have turned Crimea into a strong bridgehead ensuring the projection of force in the region.
Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu has openly said that the aggravation of the Ukraine crisis and growing foreign military presence off Russian borders have impelled Russia to introduce some changes in the work of the command of the Southern Military District, which comprises Crimea. That is why the deployment of a full-fledged and self-sufficient group of troops in the Crimean direction has become a priority task for the Russian military leadership
The Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol, a city with a special status on the Crimean Peninsula, where most residents are Russians, refused to recognize the legitimacy of authorities brought to power amid riots during a coup in Ukraine in February 2014.
Crimea and Sevastopol adopted declarations of independence on March 11. They held a referendum on March 16, in which 96.77% of Crimeans and 95.6% of Sevastopol voters chose to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the reunification deals March 18.
In the Soviet Union, Crimea used to be part of Russia until 1954, when Nikita Khrushchev, the first secretary of the USSR’s Communist Party, transferred it to Ukraine's jurisdiction as a gift.
Work to integrate the Crimean Peninsula into Russia’s economic, financial, credit, legal, state power, military conscription and infrastructure systems is actively underway now that Crimea has accessed to the Russian Federation.
Despite Moscow’s repeated statements that the Crimean referendum on secession from Ukraine was in line with the international law and the UN Charter and in conformity with the precedent set by Kosovo’s secession from Serbia in 2008, the West and Kiev have refused to recognize the legality of Crimea’s reunification with Russia.