Europe

Ukraine tests missiles near Crimea despite Russian ire

Ukrainian forces test surface-to-surface missiles Devichki shooting range, about 85 km from capital Kiev, Ukraine, 28 October 201 Image copyright EPA
Image caption Recent Ukrainian military exercises have taken place further away from Crimea

Ukraine says it has successfully completed the first of two days of missile tests over the Black Sea, west of the Crimea peninsula.

Russia, which annexed Crimea in 2014, had called the tests a provocation and threatened to shoot the missiles down.

But on Thursday Russia's air transport agency said Ukraine had moved the border of the test area further away, apparently reducing Russian concerns.

A Ukrainian official said the tests were in line with international law.

Earlier this week, Ukraine issued a warning defining an area in the north of the Black Sea that aircraft should avoid on Thursday and Friday.

Russia's defence ministry had said the area "violates the territorial sea borders of the Russian Federation", in a note delivered to the defence attache at the Ukrainian embassy, according to Interfax news agency.

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On Thursday, the Ukrainian defence ministry said the first day of tests had been successfully completed.

In a statement (in Ukrainian), it said 16 launches had been made and all the missiles had hit their targets.

Ukraine says medium range surface-to-air missiles are being tested.

Russia earlier issued a warning that missiles detected in the specified area would be destroyed and, if the missiles posed a threat to Russian objects, launchers would also be targeted.

But on Thursday, the Russian Federal Air Transport Agency (Rosaviatsia) said the boundaries of the danger zones had been moved to the west, "outside the borders of the Russian Federation", according to Interfax news agency.

A Ukrainian military official said the exercises were being carried out at least 30km (19 miles) from Crimean air space and in accordance with international law.

"Therefore it would be wrong to reproach Ukraine," Volodymyr Kryzhanovsky told the Ukrainian 112 TV Channel.

In early 2014 Crimea became the focus of the worst East-West crisis since the Cold War, after Ukraine's pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovych was driven from power by violent protests in Kiev.

Russian forces seized control of the Crimean peninsula, and the territory, which has a Russian-speaking majority, voted to join Russia in a referendum that Ukraine and the West deemed illegal.

Russia has held large military exercises near Ukraine's borders since the annexation, including large-scale drills in and around Crimea in September.

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