- The Washington Times - Friday, July 15, 2016

Russia will permanently deploy an advanced air-defense system to Crimea next month as Moscow attempts to fortify the contested Black Sea peninsula from potential NATO intervention, officials said Friday.

The S-400 “Triumph” anti-aircraft missile system will be installed on the coastal port of Feodosia in August, said Lt. Col. Eugene Oleynikov, deputy commander of the 18th anti-aircraft missile regiment of the 31st Air Defense Division, Russian media reported.

The new air-defense system will be capable of firing both long- and medium-range missiles and is designed to reach targets up to 250 miles away.

Ruslan Balbec, the vice premier of the Crimean government, said the deployment will effectively ensure that any adversaries operating within the region’s airspace will instantly embark on a suicide mission once within the system’s reach, and he issued a warning to NATO “air hooligans” who may be inclined to see for themselves.

“For those who want to wander near the Crimean airspace or invade it — it is actually the act of suicide,” Mr. Balbec told RIA Novosti. “Without doubt, NATO has brave pilots, but there are no suicide bombers among them.”

The system’s deployment will erase any doubt that NATO is able to “arrange any provocations” near Crimea, he added.

Crimea, a former Soviet state, was annexed by Russia in 2014, but it’s still recognized by NATO, the U.S. and its allies as part of Ukraine.

Russia’s envoy to NATO, Alexander Grushko, said earlier this year that Moscow will take whatever steps necessary to protect its newly claimed territory from outside interference.

“Presently NATO is trying to move its confrontational schemes on the territory of the Black Sea,” he told the Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper in May. “NATO knows perfectly well that the Black Sea will never be a sort of ‘NATO lake’ and we will take all necessary measures to neutralize any threats and attempts to put forceful pressure on Russia from the south.”

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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