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Ukraine Defence Minister: Over 18,000 Russian Troops in Crimea
Russian troops outside of a Ukrainian military base in Perevevalnoe. Crimea. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
As of March 12, there are 18,430 Russian troops on the Crimean peninsula, with special forces being replaced with mechanised battalions, Ukrainian defence minister Igor Tenyukh told reporters ahead of a cabinet meeting.
“We are aware of every step that’s taken in Crimea – where troops are being rotated, where military equipment is being moved to, what they are doing, and so on. For instance, Russia is implementing a troop rotation and bringing spetsnaz forces from Chechnya into Crimea,” Tenyukh said.
The Russian troop rotation is also linked to the fact that the soldiers who were blockading Ukrainian units in Crimea are becoming sympathetic to the Ukrainian side.
The acting defence minister said the figure of 220,000 Russian troops he had previously cited included those who took part in exercised on Ukraine’s eastern borders as well as those in Crimea.
“Yesterday [March 11], Russia began the biggest airborne troop exercises in its history. Up to 4,000 personnel are taking part,” Tenyukh said. “The figure of 220,000 is the total of those taking part in exercises in Russia and in Crimea. In the autonomous republic [Crimea] itself, the Russian Black Sea naval force has been illegally expanded by 6,000 personnel."
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