The Kremlin's plans to deploy a fourth surface-to-air missile battalion in Crimea would endanger all countries in the Black Sea region, a Ukrainian official warned Thursday.
Russia's Black Sea Fleet said the air defense missile systems are ready for combat in Crimea near the Ukraine border, Moscow's state-run news agency reported. It's the Kremlin's latest move in the row over Ukraine, which stretches back to 2014 and was aggravated last weekend when Russian forces seized three Ukrainian naval ships.
Moscow said previously it would deploy S-400 missile systems as a defensive measure for "Crimea's air defense." Also Thursday, The Moscow Times reported Russia is planning to build a new early-warning missile radar facility in Crimea next year.
Russian officials said military personnel have started detecting and tracking targets in their combat mission to defend Crimea.
Moscow forcibly annexed Crimea from Ukraine in a highly controversial move in 2014, which remains a source of tension between the Kremlin and Ukrainian and Western governments.
Olexiy Makeyev, the Ukrainian foreign ministry's political director, told Al Jazeera Russia's escalation puts the entire region in danger.
"The system's operational range is up to (250 miles) so it places all literal states in the Black Sea region, including NATO members under the threat of an attack," Makeyev said. "We know that those missiles can be used also for ground targets."
The S-400 Triumf is Russia's newest medium-and long-range surface-to-air missile system designed to destroy aircraft-based, cruise and ballistic missiles.
Tensions between Moscow and Kiev have increased dramatically over the last four days, since Russia captured three Ukrainian navy ships in the Kerch Strait. Russia has threatened to prosecute the sailors, saying the vessels provocatively sailed into Russian territorial waters.
This week, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko imposed martial law in some parts of the country to last for 30 days. He called the ships' captures acts of aggression. Russia considers it a political move by Poroshenko to improve his re-election bid before Ukrainian elections.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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