Russia has deployed more than a dozen Su-27SM and Su-30M2 fighter jets to Crimea amid heightened tensions with Ukraine, according to reports.
The jets arrived at the Belbek Air Base in Crimea on Saturday, Dec. 22 and will be permanently stationed at the base. The jets, which are assigned to fighter jets regiment of the 4th Air Force and Air Defense Army were flown from the Krymsk airfield in the Krasnodar region to Belbek.
The deployment came after the completion of the first phase of reconstruction of the Belbek Air Base. The first stage facilities which are now completed includes a new runway with a length of 3450 meters, taxiways and parking spaces for aircraft and special-purpose areas.
Tensions between Moscow and Kiev have risen after a confrontation last month. During the Nov.25 confrontation, the Russian Coast Guard fired on and seized three Ukrainian vessels – two small armored artillery boats and a tugboat – and their crews that sought to pass from the Black Sea into the Sea of Azov through the Kerch Strait, between Russia’s mainland and the Crimean Peninsula.
Ukraine insisted that its vessels were operating in international waters in line with international maritime rules when they were fired upon, while Russia said they were in its territorial waters and had failed to get permission to pass. The incident marked the first overt collision between Russian and Ukrainian militaries since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has earlier said that Ukraine was preparing a “provocation” in the area before the end of the year.