Putin visits Crimea amid high Russia-Ukraine tensions

Moscow, Aug 19 (IANS) Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday arrived in Crimea where he is due to attend a security meeting amid heightened tensions in the region.

Putin’s visit to the peninsula comes days after he accused Ukrainian military troops of attempting to infiltrate Crimean territory, leading to a confrontation that allegedly left two Russian servicemen dead, EFE news reported.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko denied the allegations, saying they were “just a pretext for another portion of military threats against Ukraine”.

Following the alleged incursion, Putin refused to participate in further bilateral diplomatic meetings.

In recent days, both the countries have increased military presence on either side of the isthmus that demarcates the contested border between Crimea and Ukraine.

Putin’s visit also coincided with the 25th anniversary of the 1991 attempted coup in the Soviet Union, which is widely considered to have marked the beginning of the collapse of the union.

The redrawing of the political borders after the collapse of the USSR saw some ethnically Russian territories including Crimea, integrated into the newly independent former Soviet republics such as Ukraine.

Putin described the break-up of the bloc as “the greatest geopolitical disaster of the last century”.

The Crimean peninsula was annexed by Russia in March 2014, following the ousting of former President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych during a civilian uprising.

Amid ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian Armed Forces, Poroshenko said on Thursday that the chances of Russia initiating all-out war was considerable.

In this case, Ukraine would declare a state of war and fully mobilise the population against any offensive, Poroshenko said.

Several ceasefire agreements were broken and fighting in the Donbass region of Ukraine was ongoing.

On Friday Poroshenko said two Ukrainian servicemen were killed in action and eight more were injured in skirmishes with separatist militias.

The United Nations Human Rights Commission estimated that nearly 10,000 people have been killed in the conflict area in eastern Ukraine since 2014.

–IANS

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