Russia plans to deploy a battalion of Russian airborne forces on a permanent basis in the Crimean peninsula, an independent territory that is recognized by the international community as part of Ukraine.
"A decision has been taken to deploy an air assault battalion of the seventh division in Crimea within two years - 2017-2018. On its basis, a third regiment will be created after 2020," said a source in Russia's Armed Forces General Staff, Russian state-run news agency Itar-Tass reported on Thursday.
Since the Russian annexation of Crimea in March 2014, Russia has gradually increased its military presence in the region as a sign of its more assertive policies against the West. Russia has increased Crimea's military capacity through deploying Bastion antimissile systems in March 2015. Crimea plays an important geopolitical role for Russia as it aims to take control over the Black sea region.
As the world's focus has diverted towards Russian intervention in Syria, Russia has still continued to exert its influence both in Syria and Ukraine as part of its expansionist ambitions. In 2015, the world leaders gathered for the Munich conference to discuss Russian aggression in Ukraine. Now in 2016, the civil war in Syria and Russian airstrikes that deliberately targets civilians was on the top of the agenda. It is important to note that the international law that underpins the principle of maintaining territorial integrity has been so far challenged by Russian military intervention in these countries.
The referendum on the status of Crimea held on March 16, 2014 allowed the secession of Crimea from Ukraine, as more than 96 percent of Crimean voted for the integration of the region into the Russian Federation. Following the referendum, Russia approved a draft bill that recognizes Ukraine's autonomous region of Crimea as an independent state. Together with the international community, the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 68/262 on Ukraine's territorial integrity condemned the referendum while recognizing Crimea within only Ukraine's borders. After the referendum, Russian troops took de facto control of the Crimean peninsula. Since then, the relationship between Russia and Ukraine severely deteriorated with the West imposing harsh economic sanctions on Russia.
After the Russian annexation, the Crimean Tatar population, which is 12 percent of Crimea's largely ethnic Russian population of about 2 million, has become the most vulnerable people under Russian rule, as many have been reportedly subjected to severe human rights abuses.