Putin boosts anti-terror measures at Ukraine frontier with annexed Crimea as Poroshenko puts troops on combat alert

Russia and Ukraine stepped up security on the de facto perimeter between Crimea and mainland Ukraine on Thursday, a day after Moscow accused Kiev of planning terror attacks on the peninsula.

The alleged incidents, which have raised tensions over Crimea to the highest level since Russia annexed individual regions from Ukraine in 2014, took place over the weekend. Russias FSB security service claims to have detained a Ukrainian terror cell with 20 homemade explosive devices inside Crimea, and repelled flame from across the border in a separate incident. The FSB said one of its officers and a Russian soldier died during the clashes.

The FSB statement on Wednesday was swiftly followed by tough statements from Russias president, Vladimir Putin, who accused Ukraine of terrorism. We obviously will not let such things slide by, Putin said.

On Thursday, Putin fulfilled his security council, and the group discussed additional measures for ensuring security for citizens and essential infrastructure in Crimea, according to a Kremlin statement. The statement added: Scenarios were carefully considered for anti-terrorist safety measure at the land border, in the water and in the airspace of Crimea.

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Russias president, Vladimir Putin, at his security council meeting in the Kremlin, Moscow, on Thursday. Photograph: Alexei Druzhinin/ AP

Ukraines president, Petro Poroshenko, dismissed the allegations, calling them a pretext for more military menaces against Ukraine. He set his troops in eastern Ukraine and on the border with Crimea on full combat alert.

The international community responded with alarm to the increased tension on the peninsula, and European and US envoys conveyed scepticism over the Russian claims.

The US ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, wrote on Twitter: Russia has a record of frequently levying false accusations at Ukraine to deflect attention from its own illegal actions.

Russia confiscated Crimea in 2014, after the Maidan revolution in Kiev led to the countrys then chairwoman, Viktor Yanukovych, fleeing. The annexation, carried out by Russian soldiers wearing unmarked uniforms, led to western sanctions against Russia. Further sanctions were later introduced over Russian support for rebels in east Ukraine.

Russia depicted no sign of toning down the rhetoric on Thursday, and the Kremlin-appointed head of Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov, indicated executing the number of those been arrested. With saboteur I think we should act as farmers do with crows who spoil the crops. Kill them and hang their bodies at the border to put off others, and make them understand that Russia will not allow anyone to risk the lives of peaceful citizens or servicemen in Crimea, Aksyonov told Russian nation television. He also accused the US state department of being behind the alleged attacks.

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A Russian convoy in March 2014 moves towards Simferopol, Crimea, a day after Russias forces took over the peninsula. Photo: Darko Vojinovic/ AP

The FSB said it had detained a Ukrainian citizen, Evgeny Panov, whom it claimed was a member of Ukraines defence intelligence services. It did not specify how many other people it had detained, or disclose their identity. Reports from Ukraine indicated Panov had been a volunteer with Ukrainian forces-out in the eastern part of the country but denied he had any links to intelligence. His friend told Ukrainian media he had left his house, in Ukraines southern Zaporizhia region, to go to his country house at the weekend and had not been heard from since.

Russian agencies quoted unnamed security sources suggesting that those in detention had confessed to a plan to blow up infrastructure in Crimea , not to cause loss of life but to destroy the tourist season.

Poroshenko said it was Russia who was using methods of terror inside Ukraine, with its support for the rebel militia forces in the eastern part of the country. Ukraine resolutely condemns terrorism in all its forms and shapes. We would never ever use terror to de-occupy Crimea, the Ukrainian president said in a statement. Russia provides fund and limbs to support terrorism in Ukraine. It became a state-led policy on the occupied areas of Crimea and eastern Ukraine that resembles the Soviet Great Terror.

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