Russian president says Moscow will not ignore incidents in which two soldiers were killed, but which Kiev denies took place
Vladimir Putin has accused Ukraine of plotting terrorist attacks in Crimea and claimed two Russian servicemen were killed in conflicts the coming week, as tensions over the peninsula rise to their highest level since Russia annexed it in 2014.
Ukraine denied the alleged incidents had taken place and dismissed the claims as Russian provocation.
In characteristically bellicose speech, Putin accused Ukraine of playing a dangerous game.We plainly will not let such things slide by, the Russian president said on Wednesday. Ukraine had resorted to the practice of terror, he said.
Putins warning that Russia would not dismis the incidents will worry observers. The increased tension in Crimea comes at a time when the simmer conflict in eastern Ukraine appears to be heating up. There are almost daily casualties on the frontline between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed rebel military formations, and little sign of a resolution to the conflict, in which more than 9,000 people have been killed over the past two years.
Russias security service, the FSB, said in a statement that one of its officers had been killed during a shootout with a group of diversionaries on Saturday night, when they were supposedly detected simply inside Crimeas border with mainland Ukraine. It said the group had 20 homemade devices with a total of 40kg of explosives in their possession.
The FSB said there had been a further incident on Monday involving massive firing from the Ukrainian side of the border and attempts to enter the region by force, during which another Russian soldier died.
On the night of 8 August 2016, special operations forces from the Ukrainian defence ministry carried out two more attempts to make a breakthrough by sabotage-terrorist groups, it said.
The FSB said it had arrested a human named Evgeny Panov, allegedly a Ukrainian military intelligence operative born in 1977, and said he had made a confession. It dedicated no additional information and clarification.
This is a very dangerous game, said Putin. We will of course do everything to assure the security of infrastructure, citizens and will take additional measures to provide security, including serious additional measures.
The FSB said Kievs aim was the destabilisation of the socio-political situation in the region during preparation for elections. Russia will hold nationwide parliamentary elections on 18 September, with Crimea taking part for the first time since its annexation.
Locals in Crimea have noted a large amount of Russian military hardware on the move in recent days, and the de facto borders between Crimea and Ukraine were closed over the weekend and subject to increased security checks when they reopened.
Ukraines defence ministry said: This various kinds of FSB statement is nothing more than an attempt to justify company relocations and aggressive actions of Russian military units on the temporarily occupied peninsula.
Russian security services are trying to distract the population of Crimea and the international community from its criminal actions, turning the peninsula into an isolated military base.
Read more: www.theguardian.com