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Tu-22M3 deployed in Crimea to offset NATO missile defense systems in Romania — senator

The decision to deploy long-range missile-carrying bombers has drastically changed the balance of forces in the region, Viktor Bondarev noted

MOSCOW, March 18. /TASS/. Russia has deployed squadrons of Tu-22M3 bombers in Crimea in response to the deployment of NATO’s anti-missile shield in Romania in 2015, the head of the Russian Federation Council’s Committee for Defense and Security, Viktor Bondarev, told journalists on Monday.

"The deployment of American missile defense systems in Romania came as a major challenge, in response to which the Russian Defense Ministry made the decision to deploy long-range missile-carrying bombers Tupolev Tu-22M23 at the Gvardeyskoye airbase. This move has drastically changed the balance of forces in the region," Bondarev explained.

The senator also noted that at the time when Crimea was part of Ukraine, a possibility existed to ‘lock’ the Russian fleet in the Black Sea. According to him, Russia was yearly paying Ukraine about 100 million dollars for the fleet’s stationing in Crimea, and "all the time was under the threat of being blackmailed by non-extension of the treaty".

"If it were not for a prompt return of Crimea and Sevastopol within Russia, these territories would have gone under protectorate of the US. The American ‘parent country’ would have immediately deployed its weapons systems there. In case of a war, obstacles could have been put without hindrance for our ships, for example through mining the floor of the Bosporus," the senator stressed.

He said now this scenario is ruled out, as the Iskander missile systems are controlling the entire Black Sea coast, including the Bosporus.

Crimea’s reunification with Russia

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 the authorities in Kiev who seized power amid riots that sparked a coup in Ukraine in February 2014.

Crimea and Sevastopol adopted declarations of independence on March 11, 2014. They held a referendum on March 16, 2014, in which 96.77% of Crimeans and 95.6% of Sevastopol voters chose to secede from Ukraine and join Russia. The Russian president signed the reunification deals on March 18, 2014. Despite the convincing results of the referendum, Kiev refused to recognize Crimea as part of Russia.