Ukrainian Navy Accused of Crimea "Sabotage Plot"
On Thursday, Russian state-sponsored media alleged that officers from the Ukrainian Navy were involved in a plot to sabotage "critical and life-supporting elements" of infrastructure in occupied Crimea.
According to an unnamed Crimean law enforcement source, "officers of the [Ochakiv] navy base mentioned, in private conversations, that the group had arrived to back up and evacuate the sabotage group of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry's Chief Directorate of Intelligence, which was blocked in Crimea," Sputnik News reported. Ochakiv is a military base about 100 miles to the northwest of the Crimean demarcation line.
The new allegations follow a recent statement by the Russian FSB intelligence service that it had thwarted a Ukrainian military plot to carry out terrorist attacks in Crimea.
"It looks like the people who have seized power in Kiev and continue to hold on to it, instead of looking for the compromises that we have talked about . . . they have resorted to terrorist practices," said Russian president Vladimir Putin last week.
Putin used the alleged plot and a previous report of a bomb attack on a local politician as grounds to suspend diplomatic talks on the Russian occupation.
"Holding a meeting in the Normandy format in China given these conditions is pointless," Putin said, referring to planned multilateral talks between Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France at the upcoming G20 summit.
American and Ukrainian officials were skeptical. "Russia has a record of frequently levying false accusations at Ukraine to deflect attention from its own illegal actions," responded U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt. "[The] U.S. government has seen nothing so far that corroborates Russian allegations of a 'Crimea incursion' and Ukraine has strongly refuted them."
Ukraine has vehemently denied any involvement. A spokesman for its General Staff, Vladislav Seleznev, told Radio Svoboda that "any claims of this kind are simply provocative acts."
Russia has been moving thousands of troops nearer to its borders with Ukraine in recent weeks, and intends to hold large-scale military exercises in the region in September.
Russia aided a separatist government takeover in Crimea in late 2014, leading to U.S. and EU sanctions, including a ban on American involvement in Russian deepwater and Arctic offshore oil exploration.