Ordering his navy’s northern fleet and paratrooper units to go on full alert as part of military exercises in the Arctic was Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Russian defense minister was quoted by the RIA news agency on Monday.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who is overseeing an expensive modernization of the armed forces, said Russia faced new threats to its security which obliged it to boost its military strength and capabilities, according to a VOA report.
“New challenges and threats to military security require the armed forces to further boost their military capabilities. Special attention must be paid to strategic formations in the North,” state-run RIA quoted Shoigu as saying.
The West and Kiev have leveled accusations against Russia for supplying arms and soldiers to support pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine who are fighting government troops.
NATO made new allegations last week that Russia was arming the separatists in east Ukraine, where more than 6,000 people have been killed in nearly a year of fighting, according to a VOA report.
Moscow has boosted its ambitions in the resource-rich Arctic region, where it shares a border with NATO member Norway, and the military is looking to boost its capabilities in the region.
The tests were due to include nearly 40,000 servicemen, 41 warships and 15 submarines, RIA reported.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko, seeking Western military aid to end a pro-Russian rebellion in his homeland, has arrived in Germany for talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel and key German lawmakers.
Details of their talks have not been disclosed. But the Monday meetings follow warnings last week from Germany’s top diplomat against supplying Kyiv with lethal weaponry to counter the nearly year-long Moscow-backed uprising near the Russian border.
German Foreign Minister Frank Walter-Steinmeier, speaking Thursday in Washington, said giving such weapons to Ukraine could send the conflict spinning “out of control.” He and other European officials also have warned that neither Germany nor France would support any U.S. move to send lethal weaponry.
Making shocking claims on Sunday night on Russian state TV; Putin said on a documentary film about the Crimean invasion that he was so concerned that hostilities would escalate during the height of the Ukraine crisis that he was preparing to roll out his large nuclear arsenal.
Although speculation over Putin’s reported health issues grew, he has categorically denied this and his entire interview with Rossiya One provided new insight into his country’s involvement in the annexation of the Black Sea peninsula.
In the documentary, which marks a year since the referendum that saw Russia take control of Crimea, Putin described the Ukrainian revolution to oust Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014 as an armed coup “masterminded by our American friends”.
He said Washington tried to “trick” the world into thinking the regime change was “supported mostly by the Europeans”, according to a translation of the interview on Russia Today.