MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday emphasized the need to strengthen the country’s air defences amid Nato’s military activities near Russia’s borders.
Speaking during a meeting with military officials and arms makers in the southern Russian city of Sochi, Putin specificially noted the deployment of Nato’s US-led missile defence components in Eastern Europe and increasingly frequent missions by Nato ships near Russian waters in the Baltic and Black Seas.
“Even now, a US warship has entered the Black Sea, and we can see it in binoculars or crosshairs of our defense systems,” he said in a reference to the USS Mount Whitney, the flagship of the US 6th Fleet, deployed to the Black Sea.
Russia has bristled at the deployment of US and other Nato ships near its waters as tensions between Moscow and the West have sunk to post-Cold War lows after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, its support for a separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine and other irritants.
Last month, Russia suspended its mission at Nato and ordered the closure of the alliance’s office in Moscow after Nato had withdrawn the accreditation of eight Russian officials to its Brussels headquarters, saying it believed they had been secretly working for Russian intelligence.
Moscow has repeatedly voiced concerns over the deployment of Nato forces near Russian borders, describing it as a threat to its security. Russia and the alliance also have continuously accused each other of dangerous and provocative maneuvers at sea and in the air.
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