MOSCOW, September 16 (RIA Novosti) – The deployment of a “fully-fledged and self-sufficient” military contingent in Crimea is a priority for the Russian military in light of the [Kiev] Ukrainian crisis and NATO buildup near Russian borders, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Tuesday.
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“The military-political situation in the southwestern theater of operations has drastically changed since the beginning of the year,” Shoigu said at a defense ministry meeting.
The minister listed Crimea’s reunification with Russia, the Ukrainian crisis and the NATO buildup near Russian borders as factors determining the need to revise Russia’s security plans for the region.
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“One of the key priorities for the [Southern] military district has become the deployment of a fully-fledged and self-sufficient military contingent in Crimea,” Shoigu said.
Last week, Russia deployed a number of the Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets to an air base near the Crimean city of Sevastopol.
According to Crimean authorities, the Russian Defense Ministry plans to reinstitute the airfield network in Crimea, mostly abandoned during the 23-year period of the peninsula being part of Ukraine.
Crimea rejoined Russia following a referendum held on March 16.
Following the move, NATO has suspended cooperation with Russia and started to strengthen its forces near Russia’s borders, intensifying air patrolling missions in the Baltic region and sending warships to the Black Sea.
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Moscow has criticized the bloc’s growing military presence with Russian President Vladimir Putin claiming that the Ukrainian crisis was used by NATO as a pretext for resuscitating itself.
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