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Russia says ‘fortifying’ annexed Crimean peninsula

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Russia said on Friday it was strengthening positions on the Crimean peninsula, annexed from Ukraine in 2014, as Kyiv’s forces reclaim territory in the neighboring Kherson region.

“Fortification work is being carried out on the territory of Crimea under my control with the aim of guaranteeing the security of all Crimeans,” the Moscow-appointed governor of the region, Sergei Aksyonov, said on social media.

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Russia annexed Crimea in the wake of nationwide pro-democracy demonstrations that led to the ouster of Ukraine’s former Kremlin-friendly president.

It was used as a launching pad in February for what the Kremlin calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine.

Aksyonov said that the fortification work was being carried out even though the military and law enforcement were already taking measures.

Ukraine forces in recent months have been pushing a counter-offensive in the south of the country and last week reclaimed Kherson, the capital of the Ukrainian region bordering Crimea.

Russia claimed to have also annexed that region along with three more in September, vowing to defend them with all available military means.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky has said his forces intend to recapture the peninsula, too.

There have been several explosions at or near Russian military installations in Crimea since February, including a coordinated drone attack on a key Russian naval port at Sevastopol.

In October, the Kerch bridge connecting the peninsula to the Russian mainland was partially destroyed in an attack attributed to Ukraine by Moscow.

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