Russia unveils western military shakeup

Russia unveils western military shakeup

Russia is due to add tank and missile defence units to its Baltic fleet this year to counter what it says is the threat of Nato.

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu was quoted saying by Kremlin mouthpiece Tass that the moves were a response to Nato’s growing presence in the Baltic states.  

“We are forced to provide an adequate response, carrying out strategic containment events with the plans of stepping up combat capabilities,” Shoigu said.

The Kremlin is restructuring its forces and bolstering coastal defences with a missile defence battalion and tank regiment, Shoigu said.

“The efficiency of providing cover for military and state facilities in the Baltic operational area will increase by 40 per cent,” the minister said.

Nato has multinational battlegroups in all three Baltic states and Poland in response to the 2014 invasion of Ukraine.

Spying conviction

Russia says an officer from its Black Sea fleet and his romantic partner have been jaIled for spying for Ukraine.

Russia’s North Caucasus Regional Military Court jaIled Major Dmitry Dolgopolov for 10 years and his “common-law wife”, Anna Sukhonosova, to nine years for selling classified materials to Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU).

The couple were arrested in September 2017 in Russian-occupied Crimea. The Black Sea fleet is based at the Crimean port of Sevastopol.

“The named individuals collected and handed to Ukraine’s Security Service materials containing state secrets on operations of units of the Black Sea Fleet,” the FSB said.

Stepan Kubiv, Ukraine’s energy minister, claims the 2014 Russian seizure of Crimea, has deprived Kiev of access to large gas deposits.

He said: “Ukraine has lost 80 per cent of oil and gas deposits in the Black Sea and a significant part of the port infrastructure due to the annexation of Crimea.” Meanwhile, the Sea of Azov remains restricted to Ukrainian shipping and 24 of its sailors and three naval vessels travelling from Odessa to Mariupol on the Azoz coast were seized last November by the Russian coastguard.

Ukraine’s State Border Service spokesman Oleh Slobodian said: “Vessels flying the Ukrainian flag, as a rule, practically do not pass through the Kerch Strait. As for foreign ships, now, under pressure from the international community, the Russian Federation lets them pass more freely, with fewer obstacles, to Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov.”

He said Russia this year had detained and inspected 67 foreign vessels sailing to Ukraine’s Azov ports.

Ukraine influence as a transit hub for Russian natural gas is rapidly eroding as the Nord Stream 2 pipeline bypasses its neighbour and is due to start delivering gas directly to Germany later this year.

The Baltic pipeline entirely could deprive the Kiev administration of US$3 billion in annual transit revenues or almost 3 per cent of GDP.

In 2006, Poland’s then defence minister Radoslaw Sikorski likened the first Nord Stream pipeline to the 1939 Nazi-Soviet Pact.

Poland worries Nord Stream 2 will undermine its plans for an LNG terminal and gas pipeline from Norway.

Russia’s military activity in the west causes far more concern since 2014. Picture credit: Wikimedia

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