(GPA) Moscow – This week tensions are flaring up between the governments in Moscow and Kiev with conflicting versions of who the aggressor is.
On Tuesday the the Associated Press reported that two new divisions of Russian troops were deployed on the country’s western border with Ukraine. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the two divisions of motorized infantry had been deployed to the Belgorod, Smolensk and Voronezh regions near the Russian, Ukrainian and Belorussian border.
Shoigu offered no specifics on the number of troops that comprise the two divisions, just that 70 percent were new volunteer contract soldiers in the Russian military. Western sources estimate the new deployment to consist of somewhere around 55,000 soldiers.
Ukraine sees this as a threat of invasion when the new recruits are added to the 1,000 soldiers in Moldova, 25,000 in Crimea and an alleged 5-6,000 in the Donbass region. Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov denies the claims that they have any soldiers in the Donbass since it is still a part of the Ukrainian state.
The Ukrainian government has responded in the last 24 hours by beginning missile tests in an area near Crimea, the peninsula that was annexed by Russia by way of a popular referendum. The 16 missile tests were announced by Ukrainian presidential spokesman Svyatoslav Tsegolko. He said of the tests in a Facebook post that “The Defense Ministry and the General Staff chief have just reported to the president on today’s drills, which were successfully completed. Sixteen Ukrainian missiles were launched. All of them have reached their targets.”
Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko acknowledged the missile tests later in the day from Kiev saying “These latest exercises involved combat and transport aircraft, as well as divisions of anti-aircraft and radar troops.” Poroshenko justified the tests by way of emphasizing “that the launches are taking place in open sea over Ukrainian airspace, in full accordance with international law. The launches will go on regardless of any statement released by Moscow.”
Poroshenko then blamed Moscow for the need to conduct the tests out of fear and the need “to be consistently ready for any full-scale invasion from the side of our aggressive neighbor.” The missiles came within 30 miles of Crimean [Russian] air space.
Russia has placed their navy on high alert following the tests and moved in several ships from the Black Sea to the area around Crimea to protect their assets.
James Carey is an organizer based in Detroit, Michigan, founder of Geopolitics Alert, and an experienced analyst on Middle Eastern affairs with a particular focus on Turkey. He also covers topics ranging from Latin America and Asia to Europe. You can also hear James in his weekly podcast; The Left is Dead which he co-hosts with investigative journalist Jake Anderson.