Russia to deploy nuclear-capable bombers to Crimea

Russia to deploy nuclear-capable bombers to Crimea

President Vladimir Putin flew into Crimea on Monday to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Russia's annexation of the region from Ukraine and led cheering crowds in repeated chants of "Russia" after inaugurating two new power stations.

He attended the launch of a power station in the city of Sevastopol and watched the launch of another in Simferopol by video conference.

Ukraine cut off energy to Crimea and blocked supply shipments from its territory after the annexation.

Russia's modernisation effort for Crimea has included building an 11.8-mile bridge that opened past year across the Kerch Strait, which links the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. The $3.6-billion project helped facilitate links with Crimea, which previously depended on a ferry crossing that was often interrupted by gales. Viktor Bondarev, the head of the Russian upper house's defense affairs committee, said the new weapons included the Iskander-M missiles and the Tu-22M3 long-range bombers.

Moscow's 2014 takeover of Crimea was denounced by Kiev and the West as an annexation and led to sanctions against Russian Federation, but it resulted in a major boost of Putin's popularity at the time.

The president led thousands to chant "Russia" at the event, as North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union again strongly condemned the land grab by Russian Federation. They denounced alleged rights abuses including "arbitrary detentions, arrest, and torture" against members of the Crimean Tartar community and criticized Russia's military buildup in Crimea.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said "we stand in full solidarity with Ukraine, supporting its sovereignty and territorial integrity".

The Czech Republic calls on the Russian Federation to assure compliance with the worldwide human rights standards as well as to immediately release Oleg Sentsov and other illegally detained Ukrainian citizens including the crewmembers captured during the attack on Ukrainian vessels in November 2018.

But Putin, whose approval ratings soared after Moscow took over Crimea, has repeatedly rejected any prospect of returning the peninsula to Ukraine.

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The presidential elections in Ukraine will be held on March 31. The Kremlin was also anxious that a new Ukrainian government could annul Russia's lease on its key Black Sea navy base in Crimea and welcome North Atlantic Treaty Organisation there instead.

Six Russian defense firms with operations in Crimea were also named: Yaroslavsky Shipbuilding Plant, Zelenodolsk Shipyard Plant, AO Kontsern Okeanpribor (Okeanpribor), PAO Zvezda (Zvezda), AO Zavod Fiolent (Fiolent), GUP RK KTB Sudokompozit (Sudokompozit), LLC SK Consol-Stroi LTD and LLC Novye Proekty. Russia charged that the ships were illegally in Russian waters, something that Ukraine has denied.

The Kremlin has argued that Khrushchev's move violated then-Soviet law, making the transfer illegitimate.

Thousands of people waited in the cold to get a glimpse of Mr Putin on Monday.

"We proceed from the interests of our people".

Despite worldwide pressure, Moscow says the matter is closed and that a referendum held in 2014 showed Crimeans want to be part of Russian Federation. "We will liberate the Crimea", he stressed. The Kremlin fired back by cutting imports of most Western food.

How long can Putin flex his military muscles against the West? She noted the majority of Russians still feel proud about the annexation of Crimea but "it no longer works the way it had, it does not improve the mood".

According to a survey published by the Centre for Public Opinion in early March, only 39 per cent of Russians believed the annexation brought Russia more good than harm, compared to 67 per cent in 2014. He praised completion of the centers, which he said will cover up to 90 percent of Crimea's power needs.

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