Russian warships from the Black Sea Fleet have taken up positions off the Crimean Peninsula to provide air defense as Kiev starts its missile launch drills near the Russian border.
“The launches have already begun, so everything is going according to plan,” Vladimir Kryzhanovsky, the head of the Ukrainian military’s southern branch press-service said on Thursday, as cited by TASS news agency.
According to Kryzhanovsky, the drills will test S-300 medium-range surface-to-air missiles.
“The purpose of the exercise is to gain experience in using these anti-aircraft missile systems and to check the quality of the rockets, which were repaired, as well as to improve the skills of the anti-aircraft missile troop units,” he said.
Kryzhanovsky said that there had been no response to the launches from the Russian side. He noted that the missiles will come as close as 30 kilometers to Crimean airspace.
Meanwhile, Russian ships from the Black Sea Fleet have taken up positions to the west of the Crimean Peninsula to provide air defense over Russian territory, RIA Novosti news agency reports, citing sources in the military.
“The Black Sea Fleet warships integrated in the air defense system of the Southern Military District have taken position off the west coast of Crimea for Ukraine’s missile launch drills, which are scheduled for December 1st and 2nd. The ships’ air defenses are in on high alert,” the source told the agency.
Ukraine announced that it would be conducting missile-firing exercises close to Crimea in areas used by civil and state aviation flights earlier this week, warning that they would not be safe for flights. Later, it declared that adjacent areas, partly over neutral waters and partly over Russia’s territorial waters in the Black Sea to the southwest and southeast to Crimea, would also be dangerous.
The Russian aviation agency said that Kiev’s drills breach a number of international laws and agreements, noting that they had not been coordinated with Moscow.
Russia asked the authorities in Kiev to abstain from the exercises, but received no response, Russian transport minister Maksim Sokolov said earlier today, while noting that Moscow had also requested that the International Civil Aviation Organization declare Crimean airspace a danger zone, but that also went unanswered.
Earlier, the Russian Defense Ministry submitted a military-diplomatic note to the Defense Attaché at the Embassy of Ukraine, in which they protested the illegal restrictions on the use of Russian airspace imposed by Ukraine during the exercises, noting that “the southeastern boundary of the danger area declared by the Ukraine violates the territorial sea borders of the Russian Federation, which is a violation of international law and Russian legislation.”