How Crimea turns into Russia's military base

11:30, 15 March 2016
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Two years into the annexation of Crimea the Russia Federation has significantly increased the number of weapons on the peninsula, as its main goal is to completely militarize Crimea, that's according to participants of the international conference "Militarization of the occupied Crimea as a threat to international security," BBC Ukrainian Service reports.

According to the Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament, in the last two years the number of Russian soldiers in Crimea has grown by half and now totals nearly 24,000 troops. According to forecasts, their number will increase to 43,000 people in 2020-2025 years, reads the report on BBC Ukrainian Service.

"A self-sufficient interdepartmental group has been set up in Crimea, and brand new Russian weapons were deployed. In particular, Pantsir-S1 surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft artillery weapon systems, K-300P Bastion-P mobile coastal defense missile systems, and small missile ships of new types. In general, the overall missile salvo increased by half," Director of the Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Valentyn Badrak said.

"The 9K720 Iskander short-range ballistic missile systems were also deployed in Crimea. These missiles could reach the coasts of Romania, Bulgaria, and Turkey. The main thing is that the Kremlin wants to deploy Tu-22M3 rocket carriers at the airbase in the village of Hvardiiske – these are long-range strategic and maritime strike bombers able to carry nuclear weapons; with a fighting range of about 2,500 km," Badrak said.

"By destroying the global security system, Russia is moving toward confrontation with the whole world. We anticipate that this could mean a threat of military provocations," Badrak stressed.

Read alsoMejlis says mass searches of Crimean Tatars in occupied peninsulaDirector of the Institute of Strategic Studies of the Black Sea Yuriy Smelyanskiy says that other actions of the Russian authorities in Crimea show their goal to transform Crimea into a militarized zone, in particular, persecution and displacement of disloyal residents of the peninsula, primarily the Crimean Tatars.

"The number of special services in Crimea is three times higher than in other regions of Russia. Moscow continues intimidating people through mass media, brainwashing at schools and higher education facilities," Smilyanskiy said.

According to the director of the Institute of Strategic Studies of the Black Sea, militarization of Crimea means a permanent threat to Ukraine -- of the "hypothetical occupation" of bordering regions; as well as a threat to the West, as the arms buildup in the Black Sea region shifts the existing military balance.

Read alsoUkraine Mission to UN: Russia deploys 23,000 troops in Crimea, refurbishes storages of nuclear weaponsChairman of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis Refat Chubarov said that the decreased attention of  international community to Crimea led to more repression against the Crimean Tatars.

"Crimean Tatar people are actually paying for their support of the modern views on the system of internationally recognized human rights. But at the same time, the Crimean Tatars are in a situation where the international community is unable to protect them from reprisals," he said.

"The main task of all negotiating formats created together with the international community should be de-occupation of Crimea. It is obvious that Russia does not wish to consider this issue, but the goal of our current policy is to make Russia face with the need to sit at the negotiating table," Chubarov said.

Read alsoObama: Ukraine "vulnerable" to Russian "military domination" no matter what U.S. doesAccording to Bohdan Yaremenko, head of Maidan of Foreign Affairs foundation, the experts do have a strategy of returning Crimea, but it has not yet been presented to the government.

"Experts do not believe that it is impossible to return Crimea. It is rather the attitude of some politicians who believe that we should get rid of the "Crimean" ballast for faster progress toward European structures. In order to answer the question on how to return Crimea, we should understand why we have lost it," the diplomat said.

"Crimea will be returned when Russia is most weakened, and Ukraine is more powerful. Of course, we are talking about years and decades," Yaremenko said.

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