Russian Bombers, Fighter Jets Spotted Over Crimea Peninsula

Monday, 05 May 2014 11:07 AM

By Michael Mullins

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Russian bombers and fighter jets have been spotted flying over Crimea in recent days.

In total dozens of jets were observed over the Russian-controlled peninsula primarily above the Crimean city of Sevastopol, according to witnesses and experts, with several MiG-29 jets being refueled in midair by aircraft tankers, the Agence France-Presse reported.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to visit the region on Friday to attend a military parade marking Russia's victory in World War II in Sevastopol, the French news agency reported.

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"It was a bit scary," local resident Arzy Khaibulaeva told AFP. "Children were frightened."

In addition to Russia's Mikoyan MiG-29, which can travel nearly 1,500 mph and carry 8,800 pounds of weapons, expert Alexei Savich told the AFP that a Sukhoi Su-34 fighter jet was also among the planes spotted overhead in Sevastopol.

The Sukhoi Su-34 is a Russian twin-seat fighter-bomber capable of precision strikes on targets with nuclear weapons all times of day and night.

While the Russian defense ministry remained mute on the flyover over the weekend, Savich told the AFP that the presence of "serious military aircraft" above the Crimea, could signal that "Russia is most likely ramping up its military presence on the peninsula."

Russia's apparent increased military presence in the annexed peninsula comes at a when tensions between the Kiev-backed government and separatists aligned with Russia have resulted in violent, fatal crashes across the eastern region of the country.

On Friday, Ukrainian military gunships and armored vehicles supported ground forces as they advanced on the rebel-held city, which consists of approximately 160,000 inhabitants, and surrounding suburbs, pushing through nine roadblocks that had been set up by separatists, the AFP reported.

According to the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti, one Russian separatist was killed and another wounded in Slavyansk, CNN reported.

Slavyansk's self-appointed rebel mayor, Vyacheslav Ponomaryov claimed the death toll was higher, telling local media outlets that five pro-Russian activists and two civilians were killed in the Slavyansk assault by the Ukrainian military, CNN noted. The death toll could not be confirmed.

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