Russia has strengthened its southwestern flank and increased its military presence in Ukraine.
The US State Department has expressed concern about the buildup that Russia has announced and that it says are meant to counterbalance an increased military presence near its borders.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said
“Since 2013 … we have formed four divisions, nine brigades and 22 regiments. They include two missile brigades armed with Iskander missile complexes, which has allowed to boost fire power to destroy the potential adversary.”
US State Department spokesman John Kirby said:
“If true, we believe this would appear to run contrary to ongoing efforts to stop violence and to de-escalate the tensions in eastern Ukraine in line with Russia’s commitments under the 2014-15 Minsk agreements.”
The remark comes hours after Russia’s defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, told a meeting at the defence ministry in Moscow that Russia has strengthened its southwestern flank, including deployment of more air defence systems there, and placed a “self-sufficient” contingent of troops in disputed Crimea.
The Ukrainian territory of Crimea was annexed by the Russian Federation on the 18th of March 2014. Since then, the peninsula has been administered as the de facto Crimean Federal District, constituting two Russian federal subjects—the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.
The annexation was preceded by a a military intervention by Russia in Crimea, which took place in the aftermath of the 2014 Ukrainian revolution and was part of wider unrest across southern and eastern Ukraine.
The Russian Federation opposes the “annexation” label with Putin defending the referendum as complying with the principle of self-determination of peoples. In July 2015, Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev said that Crimea had been fully integrated into Russia.