190304 OSCERussia has turned the Crimean peninsula into a giant military base threatening the security and stability of the Black Sea region, altering the security balance there, at the Sea of Azov, and in the wider region covering the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East.


Compared to the pre-occupation period, Russia’s nearly tripled its military personnel on the peninsula, from 12,000 to 32,000, accompanied with a sharp increase in firepower and other capabilities, Ihor Prokopchuk, the Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the International Organizations in Vienna, told the OSCE Permanent Council on Thursday, Ukrinform reported.


“Infrastructure for nuclear weapons has been restored and modernized, which causes serious concerns in view of Russia’s violation of obligations under the INF Treaty,” he said.


Ukrainians residing in the occupied Crimea and Sevastopol have been forced into Russian citizenship and subjected to compulsory military conscription, he said.


“Under the pretext of protecting the illegally-constructed Kerch bridge, Kremlin has multiplied its military presence in the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait and resorted to disruption of free navigation,” he said.


Russia’s readiness to use military force in the Sea of Azov became clear on Nov. 25, when it attacked three Ukrainian naval vessels in international waters and seized 24 Ukrainian servicemen.


“We should not underestimate Kremlin’s unpredictable military intentions and the gravest security challenges stemming from its deliberate and continuing militarization of the occupied Crimean peninsula and the waters of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. The combination of politico-diplomatic pressure, economic and personal sanctions, and multilateral cooperation in the security field is urgently necessary to contain this threat. The OSCE, as the regional security Organisation, must play its indispensable role in this process,” Prokopchuk said.




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