Russia has started aviation and air defense exercises in the annexed Crimea, reports the Russian Defense Ministry.
"In accordance with the combat training schedule, the anti-aircraft missile units of the Black Sea Fleet Army Corps have begun to work out joint tasks in the area of intensive aviation flights. Combat training activities are being carried out in the airbases and permanent deployment bases of Black Sea Fleet air defense units,” the statement reads.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, Su-24M, Su-24MR, Su-30SM, AN-26, Be-12 aircraft and helicopters are involved in joint training with air defense units. In total, about 15 aircraft and about 50 weapons and military and special equipment are involved in the maneuvers.
The main purpose of the exercises is to work out the coherence between units and air defense batteries when providing defense for an important infrastructure during an air attack of a conventional enemy.
The day before it was reported that Russia is conducting a major exercise in the Pacific Ocean. Up to 20 warships, including the flagship of the Russian Pacific Fleet, the Varyag missile cruiser, were involved in the maneuvers.
In February 2014, armed people in uniforms without insignias appeared in Crimea and captured the Supreme Council of Crimea, the Simferopol Airport, the Kerch ferry crossing and other strategic objects, and prevented the Ukrainian army from taking action. Initially, the Russian government refused to acknowledge that these armed people were Russian soldiers, but President Vladimir Putin later admitted it.
On 16 March 2014, a referendum on the status of Crimea was held in Crimea and Sevastopol, in which the inhabitants supposedly voted for the peninsula to become part of Russia. The outcome of the so-called referendum is not recognized by Ukraine, the EU or the US. On 18 March, Putin announced the “annexation” of Crimea to Russia.
International organizations have declared the annexation illegal and condemned Russia’s actions. Western countries have imposed economic sanctions on Russia in connection with the annexation. Russia claims to have “restored historical justice”. Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, declared 20 February 2014 the start of Russia’s temporary occupation of Crimea and Sevastopol.