Russian naval forces have announced three-day military maneuvers in the Black Sea amid growing tensions between Moscow and Kiev over the Crimean Peninsula.
The Russian Defense Ministry said on Friday that its navy would start to hold exercises in the area to practice repelling underwater attacks by saboteurs.
Russia Black Sea Fleet based in Crimea is taking part in the military exercises. More than 10 warships, MI-8 and Ka-27PS helicopters are participating in the training.
“During the drill we are going to practice the issues of both operational and technical support. These include operations to counter underwater sabotage, navigational and hydrographic exercise, search and rescue missions,” said Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy Admiral Viktor Chirkov.
The Russian Federal Security Service said on Wednesday that it had thwarted an incursion by the Ukrainian military into Crimea over the weekend, saying two Russians were killed in the incident.
Ukraine’s defense intelligence rejected Russia’s claim over the incursion, saying it was based on “fake information.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered measures to ramp up security in Crimea.
The Kremlin said in a statement on Thursday that President Vladimir Putin held a meeting with his security chiefs to review “additional measures for ensuring security for citizens and essential infrastructure in Crimea.”
“Scenarios were carefully considered for anti-terrorist security measures at the land border, in the waters and in the airspace of Crimea,” the statement read.
Putin has accused Ukraine of attempting armed incursions into the region, allegations denied by Kiev. The Russian president has pledged to take counter-measures against Ukraine
Putin blamed Ukraine for “practicing terror” and said, “This is very alarming news. In fact, our security services prevented an incursion into the territory by a sabotage-reconnaissance group from Ukraine's Defense Ministry.”
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko also ordered all Ukrainian army units near Crimea and in the easterly Donbass region to stand at the highest level of combat readiness.
Oleh Slobodyan, the spokesman for the Ukrainian border guards, during a news briefing in Kiev alleged that Russia was in recent days amassing further troops equipped with more modern equipment on Ukraine's border with the Crimean region.
Meanwhile, the UN Security Council has held a closed-door meeting at Ukraine's request to discuss the growing tensions.
The developments have ratcheted up tensions and prompted fears of a possible wider conflict.
People in Ukraine’s Black Sea peninsula of Crimea voted for rejoining the Russian Federation in a referendum in March 2014. The move angered the West which branded it as Moscow’s annexation of the territory.