- The Washington Times - Monday, December 3, 2018

The Russian navy is accelerating plans to build more amphibious assault warships, according to a leading supplier of vessels to the Kremlin, amid reports that Moscow has blockaded Ukrainian ports near the annexed Crimea peninsula.

On Monday, the United Shipbuilding Corp. (USC) announced it will build two or three more Ivan Gren-class large amphibious assault ships, which can land and support ground forces on enemy territory.

“A decision has been made to finalize the Ivan Gren project,” USC CEO Alexei Rakhmanov told the state-owned TASS news agency. “There are plans to build at least two or more ships.”

Military analysts say new Ivan Gren class warships are a keystone of the Russian navy’s long-term overhaul, which will expand the Kremlin’s ability to invade by sea landing. Earlier efforts to purchase such amphibious assault vessels from France were canceled after Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014.

Tension over Crimea escalated dramatically last month when Russian coast guard vessels fired upon and seized three Ukrainian naval boats and their 24 crew members in the Kerch Strait linking the Sea of Azov to the Black Sea.

On Sunday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called on Germany and Western allies to boost their naval presence in the Black Sea to deter Russia from further aggression, saying Moscow was trying to blockade Ukrainian ports on the Sea of Azov.

Mr. Poroshenko claimed that Russia has deployed a significant number of troops along its border with Ukraine. In an interview published Sunday, he alleged that Russia intends to push inland into Ukraine following the recent naval clashes.

“We need a strong, unified, unambiguous reaction to Russia’s aggressive behavior,” Mr. Poroshenko said in the interview published by Germany’s Funke Media Group.

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