Russia eyes enhanced military presence in Crimea
MOSCOW, April 4 (Xinhua) -- Russia has worked out a plan to integrate the region of Crimea into its national defense infrastructure, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Friday.
It envisages synchronized events of military infrastructure development, armament by modern and prospective weaponry, increasing combat readiness of all units deployed in the region, the Interfax news agency quoted Shoigu as saying. According to him, the plan will be in place until 2020.
On Friday, an extraordinary session of the Russian Defense Ministry was called to discuss measures for establishing Russian military presence in Crimea.
Shoigu told the meeting that over 8,000 former Ukrainian servicemen have applied for Russian passports to date. Some 3,000 of that number have already been appointed to positions in the Russian armed forces, he added.
All other Ukrainian troops have left Crimea, the minister said, dismissing Kievs claims that Russian troops abused their Ukrainian colleagues.
He also denied that Moscow violated any treaties signed with Kiev by increasing its military presence in the peninsula.
In the recent months, threat for the civilians in Crimea as well as danger of Russian military facilities capture by extremists has occurred. Thanks to high moral qualities, good training and restraint Russian troops managed to avoid bloodshed, Shoigu pointed out.
Russia has been handing over to Ukraine their military equipment, Shoigu said.
Crimea joined Russia following a landslide vote in mid-March, but Ukraine and Western countries do not recognize the legitimacy of the referendum.
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