Russian forces build up in Crimea, now number 22,000 - Ukraine
Published 16/03/2014 | 09:53
Russia is continuing its build-up of troops in Ukraine's Crimea and they now number up to 22,000 servicemen, Ukraine's acting defence minister said on Sunday.
The build-up comes as residents of Ukraine's Crimea region have begun voting in a contentious referendum on whether to split off and seek annexation by Russia.
The referendum, which is considered illegitimate in the West and by the Ukrainian government, focuses on whether to split off and seek annexation by Russia.
The minister, Ihor Tenyukh, in an interview with Interfax news agency, said that, under agreements covering the basing of Russia's Black Sea fleet in Crimea, Russia had set a limit of 12,500 for the number of its servicemen in Crimea for 2014.
"Unfortunately, in a very short period of time, this 12,500 has grown to 22,000. This is a crude violation of the bilateral agreements and is proof that Russia has unlawfully brought its troops onto the territory of Crimea," Tenyukh said.
The figure had stood at 18,400 on Friday, he told the agency.
"We are seeing an increase in the number of Russian servicemen in Crimea," he said. "And the Ukrainian armed forces are therefore taking appropriate measures along the southern borders."