Russia Deploys Advanced Air Defense Missile System to Annexed Crimea

After Putin promises counter measures following clashes in northern Crimea, which Ukraine denies, Russia's prime minister says Moscow could break diplomatic ties with Kiev.

Ukrainian tanks and APCs move towards the de-facto border with Crimea near Kherson, southern Ukraine, August 12, 2016.
Aleksandr Shulman, AP

Russia deployed its advanced S-400 air defense missile system to annexed Crimea, Russian news agencies reported on Friday, citing a statement from the Russian Defense Ministry, while Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Moscow could break diplomatic ties with Kiev.

State news agencies quoted Medvedev as saying that he wouldn't like the ties to be severed but "if there is no other way to change the situation, the president could take this step."

The announcements come two days after Russian President Vladimir Putin promised to take counter-measures after what he said were clashes between Russian forces and Ukrainian saboteurs in northern Crimea. Ukraine, which denies the clashes took place, put its troops on combat alert on Thursday along the country's de-facto borders with Crimea.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014 following a hastily called referendum, and a conflict between Russia-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces flared up in eastern Ukraine weeks later. Despite that and the conflict in the east, which has killed more than 9,500 people, Kiev and Moscow didn't break diplomatic ties.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin earlier this week also spoke of cutting ties but said Kiev wouldn't want that because it would mean abandoning 4 million Ukrainians who live and work in Russia.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Friday appealed to Russia and Ukraine to avoid a further escalation in tensions after Moscow accused Kiev of sending "saboteurs" to conduct attacks in annexed Crimea.

He said in comments published by the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that Germany is in contact with both countries, and he plans to speak with Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov during a previously planned visit to Russia on Monday.