Fearing a new Russian threat, Ukraine rushes to upgrade its navy

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The threat, officials and many Ukraine allies believe, comes from Russia.

“We don’t know whether the President [Vladimir] Putin has intentions, but we know what happened in the past,” Blinken said during a visit to Senegal on Saturday, referring to Russian military incursions, acknowledged or not, into neighboring countries.

“We know the playbook of trying to cite some deceptive provocation from Ukraine or any other country and then using that as an excuse to carry out Russia’s plan.”

The Kremlin has responded by accusing Western countries of “hysteria” about Russia attacking Ukraine.

straight jacket

With tensions high in the region, CNN joined a Ukrainian Navy vessel departing from Bardiansk on Ukraine’s Azov coast. Typically, Commander Ovchar’s crew would arrive in six or seven Russian Coast Guard patrol boats, he says, but on this mission, there were none.

The sea he is patrolling borders Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula, which was annexed by Moscow in 2014 after a controversial referendum that violates international law.

Since annexing Crimea, Russia has built a bridge connecting it to its territory. The Kerch Bridge over the Kerch Strait serves as the only direct link between Russia and Crimea – and gives Moscow de facto control of sea access to the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea beyond.

But Ukraine plans to prevent Moscow from taking full control of the body of water connecting Ukraine’s two biggest ports, Berdysk and Mariupol.

Ukraine’s new Defense Minister, Oleksiy Reznikov, announced on 13 November that the pace of building a new naval port in Burdiansk was to be accelerated.

On Tuesday, CNN gained exclusive access to the “Sehid” or “East” base under construction.

It was immediately clear that a lot of work still needed to be done for this foundation to be anywhere near completion.

Burdiansk port area, where new ferries and modern facilities for naval ships will soon be built.

It was intended to complete the first phase of construction – new living quarters, administrative buildings and a small medical facility on the site of a disused tin factory – by the end of the year. However, in less than six weeks, the main building had no roof.

A special contingent of military builders work hard with the masonry, slapping on cement and laying bricks, hoisting a Ukrainian flag as they work.

As we moved into port, joined a commercial port, the scale of the task at hand grew even faster.

The construction of a housing facility at the port of Burdiansk has been going on since September.  The Ukrainian military says it has accelerated construction and the crew are now working seven days a week.

“This will be the dock position,” said Captain II-Class Alexander Serdik, pointing to the piles of metal and boulders lying at random in the sea. “We plan to complete this section in two years.”

But Ukraine may not have two years to prepare for the conflict.

Brigadier General Kyrlo Budanov, head of Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence Agency, told the US defense newspaper military times that Russia was increasing the military level and weapons systems in Crimea, which could come at any time.
Construction site for the new base, where housing, medical and administrative buildings are under construction.

The Kremlin has repeatedly said that it has no plans to invade Ukraine.

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday, “The American and Ukrainian media claim that Russia is preparing an attack on Ukraine, and we are saying that Ukraine is against the Donbass, against the self-declared republics of Luhansk and Donetsk.” is planning hostilities.” , “We are deeply concerned about the provocative actions of the Ukrainian Armed Forces on the line of contact and the preparedness to attempt to resolve the Donbass issue by force.”

Ukraine’s allies have begun to react to what they see as a new threat from their neighbor to the east.

On Monday, CNN reported that the Biden administration was weighing the possibility sending military advisors and new equipment, including weapons, for Ukraine. The package may include Javelin anti-tank missiles, anti-armor missiles and mortars.

The US is also considering sanctions with European allies if Russia attacks Ukraine.

Why is chaos in Eastern Europe not bad news for Vladimir Putin?

Last week, British Defense Minister Ben Wallace visited Ukraine and signed an agreement to “develop the capabilities of Ukraine’s naval forces”. CNN learned Tuesday that part of the deal will focus on Burdisk.

On the same day, the Ukrainian Navy announced the arrival of two “island-type” boats named “Fastiv” and “Sumi”, which were transported from Baltimore in the United States to Odessa in Ukraine.

“Soon the boats will raise the flag of the Ukrainian Navy and under the command of the Ukrainian crew they will begin their combat journey to ensure maritime security in the Black and Azov seas,” said Admiral Alexei Nezpapa.

The big question is whether the new Ukrainian ships and infrastructure, as well as warnings from the West, will be enough of a deterrent.

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