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Russia vs. Ukraine War: Moscow Deploys More Fighter Jets to Occupied Crimea as It Warns of Imminent 'Provocation'

Russia’s Ministry of Defense revealed Monday that Moscow planned to send over 10 Sukhoi SU-27 and SU-30 fighter jets to the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014. The move came as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that Ukraine was planning an unspecified “provocation” near Crimea before the new year.

Tensions have risen between Russia and Ukraine ever since Russian troops attacked three Ukrainian navy ships that were traveling into the Sea of Azov from the Black Sea via the Kerch Strait on November 25. The conflict ended after Russia seized the Ukrainian ships and detained around 24 Ukrainian soldiers, some of whom were wounded. The men have still not been released.

Russia claimed it was the Ukrainians who provoked it into attacking the ships, but researchers later determined that the Russia had pursued Ukraine into international waters. Many analysts believe that Russia is trying to make it harder for Ukraine to use key ports surrounding Crimea.

The Pentagon condemned the action in a statement, saying "Russia's unprovoked attack on Ukrainian naval vessels in the Black Sea near the Kerch Strait is a dangerous escalation in a pattern of increasingly provocative and threatening activity.”

But days after the violence in the Kerch Strait, Russian media reported that Moscow would also deploy new S-400 surface-to-air missile systems on the Crimean Peninsula in the near future.

gettyimages-1066599702-594x594 A Tupolev Tu-144AK airliner flies by an S-400 Triumf missile system on standby near the Crimean town of Dzhankoy, 12 miles from the Ukrainian border. Sergei Malgavko/TASS/Getty Images

Although the international community does not recognize Russia’s claims over Crimea, many say Moscow is determined to solidify its control over the peninsula. Russia has already built a  new large bridge to connect mainland Russia with Crimea.

Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko recently claimed that Russia had at least 80,000 troops, 1,400 artillery and missile systems, 900 tanks, 2,300 armored vehicles, 500 airplanes and 300 helicopters stationed in the “temporarily occupied” parts of Ukraine. Russia has also propped up pro-Russian separatists who have been fighting Ukrainian forces in Eastern Ukraine since 2014, and Poroshenko recently warned that Russia was planning a ground invasion.

President Donald Trump canceled a recent meeting he had scheduled with Russian President Vladimir Putin, citing the incident. Their meeting had been scheduled to take place on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Argentina, but the Trump administration later said that no meeting would go forward until the dispute over the Kerch Strait was resolved.

The U.S. also carried out an “extraordinary flight” over Ukraine on December 6 in an effort to collect information on how many Russian troops were in the region bordering Ukraine.

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