MOSCOW, February 26 (RIA Novosti) – Russia is taking additional steps to ensure security at its naval facilities on the Crimean Peninsula amid the growing political unrest in Ukraine, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Wednesday.
“We are carefully monitoring the situation in Ukraine and around the Black Sea Fleet,” Shoigu told reporters in Moscow.
“We are taking measures to ensure security of the fleet’s facilities, infrastructure and arsenals,” he said without specifying such measures.
A Russian military source said earlier on Wednesday that security check points at several Black Sea Fleet facilities had been strengthened with armored vehicles.
Shoigu’s statement follows reports of scuffles that broke out Wednesday in the southern Ukrainian city of Simferopol as large crowds of opponents of the newly installed national authorities faced off against representatives of the Crimean Tatar community outside the local parliament.
Until Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in 1954 transferred Crimea to what was then the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, the territory was officially a part of Russia.
The Black Sea Fleet maintains its main base in the port of Sevastopol and several auxiliary naval installations around the peninsula.
During the tenure of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, which began in early 2010 and ended with his ouster on Saturday, the country renewed Russia’s lease on the naval facilities in Crimea until 2042.