Russia’s Tightening Grip on Crimea by Ivan Nechepurenko

Large landing ships approached the shores of Crimea on Friday, simulating an invasion of the peninsula that was annexed by Moscow from Ukraine in 2014. Tanks and armored vehicles lumbered out of the ships, only to be met by the superior forces of the defenders, equipped with heavy artillery.

“Comrades, generals, admirals, officers,” said an announcer, who explained every aspect of the elaborate war games intended to show Russia’s iron grip over Crimea. “A self-sufficient group of forces has been created, capable of rebuffing aggression and intrusion into the territory of the Crimean peninsula in a timely and successful fashion.”

More than 100 jets and helicopters, approximately 12,000 troops and an advanced Kalibr cruise missile, all of which were involved in the exercises, left little doubt about the strength of the forces.

The exercises in Crimea were part of much larger drills conducted across southern Russia just weeks after the country’s president, Vladimir V. Putin,accused Ukraine of sponsoring terrorism in Crimea’s territory. The accusations have increased tensions between Moscow and Kiev and have hindered international efforts to find a diplomatic resolution to the crisis in eastern Ukraine.

The Crimea war games were preceded by unscheduled drills to which no observers were invited, Mr. Golts pointed out. “That was something that worried other states,” he said, “because in February and March of 2014 forces were concentrated on the Ukrainian border under the guise of snap drills.”

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