Russia will deploy new S-400 surface-to-air missile systems on the Crimean peninsula soon, Russian media said Wednesday, citing the Russian defense ministry.
The RIA news agency said the new S-400 systems would be operational by the end of the year too, Reuters reported, although it’s not known how many new missile systems will be deployed.
The S-400 (Triumph) missile system is an anti-aircraft system developed by Russia in the late 1980s/early 1990s and its missiles can hit targets up to a distance of 400 kilometers. The system can intercept targets as far away as 600 kilometers and can track 300 targets.
Interestingly, given the announcement on a new deployment of S-400 systems to Crimea, Russia said in September that S-400 systems were already operational in the contested region with similar systems in Feodosiya and Sevastopol, news agency Tass reported.
News of the latest, new deployment comes amid overt hostility between Ukraine and Russia over the status of Crimea, however.
Relations between the neighbors have been tense and fragile since Russia’s annexation of Crime from Ukraine in 2014 and role in a pro-Russian uprising in east Ukraine in the same year, although Russia denied involvement in the latter.
Nonetheless, the international community placed a series of sanctions on Russia for what it saw as the violation of sovereign Ukraine territory. Those sanctions are still in place and could be extended after the latest Russian provocation – the seizure of three Ukrainian naval vessels and their crew members on Sunday in the Kerch Strait, a crucial shipping channel for both nations.
Ukraine has responded by introducing martial law for 30 days in several parts of the country (districts mostly on its border with Russia) following Russia’s seizure of three Ukrainian navy vessels off the coast of Russian-annexed Crimea on Sunday.
Russia’s defense ministry was not immediately available to comment on the deployment, and CNBC has also asked Ukraine’s presidential office for a comment on the report.
It is not known whether the new S-400 systems were scheduled to be deployed to Crimea in any case, or whether the deployment (or the announcement of a deployment) comes intentionally amid the latest dispute with Ukraine.
Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko told NBC News on Tuesday that Russia would pay a “huge price” if it attacked Ukraine. He has also warned of the threat of a land invasion by Russia.
On Tuesday, Poroshenko defended the introduction of martial law, saying there would be no restrictions on the constitutional rights and freedoms of Ukrainian citizens. However, he did signla there could be a “partial mobilization” of the army.
“If there is aggression, there will be partial mobilization. First and foremost, the reserve of the first wave will be mobilized, where “discharged soldiers” pack rucksacks and write to the recruitment offices about their readiness to defend Ukraine,” he said in a statement released by the government.
“And immediately, from the first minutes, we will significantly increase the number of our armed forces, redistribute financial resources, provide our armed forces with everything necessary and force the enemy to be responsible for the violation of the state border of Ukraine,” the president warned.
The Kremlin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday that there had been no telephone contact between President Vladimir Putin and President Poroshenko. Kiev has said it had requested a phone conversation with Moscow after the Kerch Strait incident.