Ukraine will speed up the construction of a naval facility in the Sea of Azov, according to the country’s defence minister.

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Ukraine announced on Saturday that it would speed up the construction of a naval base in Berdyansk to thwart what Kyiv sees as Moscow’s progressive takeover of the Sea of Azov, which runs via Russian-annexed Crimea.

Following Western concerns this week about Russian troop moves near Ukraine’s borders and a possible attack, Ukraine’s newly appointed defence minister confirmed the intentions during a trip to Berdyansk.

 

Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said it was vital for Ukraine to strengthen its naval forces. “The corresponding instructions will be given to accelerate the construction of the naval base,” Reznikov said in a statement.

Ukraine announced plans to build a base in Berdyansk in 2018 after losing its military bases on the Crimean peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014 before backing separatists fighting in eastern Ukraine.

Moscow has since taken de facto control of the Kerch Strait, which provides a passage from the Black Sea to the Sea of ​​Azov, where two large Ukrainian ports are located – Berdyansk and Mariupol.

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In his statement, Reznikov said Russia’s actions in the Azov and Black Seas had sharpened security risks and created systemic threats to shipping.

“Following the occupation of Crimea and parts of (eastern Ukraine), Russia is trying to de facto occupy the Sea of Azov as well,” Reznikov said.

Russia has in the past denied the allegation it wants to take control of the Sea of Azov. There was no immediate reaction from Russia to the Ukrainian defence minister’s comments

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