Ukraine warns Russia of rocket tests near Crimea

Ukraine warns Russia of rocket tests near Crimea

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Ukraine warns Russia of rocket tests near Crimea
Kiev, Nov 30 (AFP) Ukraine ratcheted up tensions with Moscow today by warning the Kremlin its military intended to hold two days of rocket launching exercises near the border with Russian-annexed Crimea.
The tests would begin tomorrow and almost certainly further damage relations between two former Soviet neighbours that treat each other as open foes.
Rocket exercises near the peninsula would be a first for Ukraine and its was not immediately clear what sparked their preparation.
Ukraine also failed to say whether the tests would involve specific targets or if the rockets would only be fired into the air.
But Moscow last week arrested an alleged Ukrainian military spy in Crimea and accused Kiev of abducting two Russian servicemen from the region.
Kiev accuses Russia of illegally annexing the Black Sea peninsula in March 2014 following the preceding month’s ouster of Ukraine’s Russian-backed president.
It also accuses Moscow of backing a 31-month pro-Russian insurgency in Ukraine’s industrial east that has claimed nearly 10,000 lives.
Russia calls its takeover of Crimea legal and denies either plotting or backing Ukraine’s bloodiest conflict since World War II.
Ukraine’s Deputy Defence Minister Oleksandr Dublyan said the rocket test launches would begin tomorrow in conformity with international law.
“We are not violating a single international norm,” the Dzerkalo Tyzhnya website quoted Dublyan as saying.
Kiev and the overwhelming majority of the international community consider Crimea — a mostly Russian-speaking resort region of around two million people — as part of Ukraine.
“We have our own national territory where we intend to conduct exercises,” Ukrainian defence ministry spokesman Andriy Lysenko told the Interfax-Ukraine news agency.
“And as for (Russia’s) threats — they cannot harm the army’s plans,” Lysenko said.
Moscow-based RIA Novosti state news agency earlier quoted Russia’s aviation authority as saying that Ukraine’s rockets would even approach the Crimean capital of Simferopol.
Kiev’s media was full of speculation that Russia intended to shoot down the Ukrainian rockets once the tests begin.
But Russian President Vladimir Putin’s official spokesman kept to a more cautious line. (AFP)
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