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Putin ally warns NATO any attempt to ‘encroach’ on Crimea would be ‘declaration of war’

Russia’s former president has warned that any encroachment on the Crimean peninsula by a NATO member state could amount to a declaration of war on Russia, leading to ‘World War III’.

Dmitry Medvedev, an ally of Putin, also said that if Finland and Sweden join NATO, Russia would be ready for “retaliatory steps” — and that could mean installing Iskander hypersonic missiles “on their doorstep.”

“For us, Crimea is part of Russia. And that means forever. Any attempt to invade Crimea is a declaration of war on our country,” Medvedev told the news website Argumenty i Fakty.

“And if this is done by a NATO member state, it means a conflict with the entire North Atlantic alliance; a third world war. A complete catastrophe.’

Crimea, a peninsula along the northern Black Sea coast in Eastern Europe, was claimed by Ukraine after the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Russia annexed it in 2014 after a military intervention by pro-Russian separatists and Russian armed forces. That was followed by a controversial referendum across Crimea, illegal under the Ukrainian and Crimean constitutions, whose official results showed over 90% support for reunification.

Russia's former president, Dmitry Medvedev, has warned that any encroachment on the Crimean peninsula by a NATO member state could amount to a declaration of war on Russia, leading to 'World War III'.

Russia’s former president, Dmitry Medvedev, has warned that any encroachment on the Crimean peninsula by a NATO member state could amount to a declaration of war on Russia, leading to ‘World War III’.

Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 after a military intervention by pro-Russian separatists and Russian armed forces.  That was followed by a controversial referendum on all of Crimea, illegal under the Ukrainian and Crimean constitutions, whose official results showed over 90% support for reunification.

Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 after a military intervention by pro-Russian separatists and Russian armed forces. That was followed by a controversial referendum on all of Crimea, illegal under the Ukrainian and Crimean constitutions, whose official results showed over 90% support for reunification.

However, the vote was boycotted by many loyal to Ukraine and declared illegal by Western governments and the United Nations. Russia formally annexed Crimea on March 18, 2014.

Medvedev, now deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council, also said that if Finland and Sweden join NATO, Russia would strengthen its borders and be “ready for retaliation,” and that could include the prospect of launching Iskander hypersonic missiles “at their install threshold’ .’

Finland and Sweden broke from a decades-long policy of neutrality and made a historic application for NATO membership last month in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The current 30 NATO members will discuss the issue this month. Turkey has threatened to withhold the applications over the two countries’ alleged support for Kurdish groups.

Finland and Sweden requested security guarantees from the US and other NATO countries during the application period.

Russia has threatened “military and political consequences” if the countries join NATO.

Finland and Sweden broke from a decades-long policy of neutrality and made a historic application for NATO membership last month in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Finland and Sweden broke from a decades-long policy of neutrality and made a historic application for NATO membership last month in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Medvedev’s warning comes as NATO chief Jens Stolenberg said NATO allies will bolster high-preparedness troops to “more than 300,000” troops as they bolster their defenses in response to Russia’s war on Ukraine

Leaders of the US-led military alliance are set to meet in Madrid this week for what Stoltenberg said would be a “transformative” summit as it grapples with the fallout from the invasion of Moscow by its pro-Western neighbor.

Stoltenberg said allies would bolster some of their battlegroup formations along NATO’s eastern flank to “up to brigade level” — tactical units of about 3,000-5,000 troops — and boost readiness levels to “well over 300,000.”

In addition, heavier weapons, including air defense systems, would be pushed forward and troops would be pre-allocated to defend specific NATO members on the alliance’s exposed eastern edge.

“This is the biggest overhaul of our collective defense and deterrence since the Cold War,” Stoltenberg said.

NATO currently has a high-preparedness force of about 40,000 troops under its command, but the more than 300,000 troops are expected to form a larger pool that the alliance can tap into in the event of an emergency.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg talks to Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez as they arrive at NATO's prime location in Madrid on Tuesday

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg talks to Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez as they arrive at NATO’s prime location in Madrid on Tuesday

French troops on Tuesday inspect military vehicles at Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Force Base, near the city of Constanta, Romania.

French troops on Tuesday inspect military vehicles at Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Force Base, near the city of Constanta, Romania.

A NATO official said the new system will come into effect next year and will improve the alliance’s “ability to respond in the very short term to any unforeseen circumstances” with land, sea, air and cyber assets.

Stoltenberg also said leaders would agree to bolster NATO’s vital support for a troubled Ukraine, whose president Volodymyr Zelensky will call via video link.

That package would include “substantial supplies” of equipment such as secure communications, anti-drone systems and fuel, and in the longer term help Ukraine transition to use more advanced NATO-standard weapons.

This support is separate from weapons NATO members — led by the United States — are already sending to Ukraine, including anti-tank missiles, artillery and air defenses to help Russia stop Russia’s attack.

NATO has built up its armed forces in the east of the alliance since Moscow first invaded Ukraine with the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

The alliance has sent tens of thousands of additional troops to the region since Moscow launched its large-scale invasion on February 24.

NATO now has eight battlegroups spread across its eastern members, and Stoltenberg said some of these – likely in the Baltics and Poland – would be bolstered to “brigade level.”

Nervous leaders in the Baltic states have pushed for large and permanent troop deployments that could halt Kremlin forces on the NATO border.

Germany has said it would take charge of a new brigade in Lithuania – where it already has troops – but most of those troops would be permanently stationed back on home soil.

The British defense secretary has said his country is likely to propose a similar set-up for Estonia, where it commands the existing battlegroup.

Stoltenberg said he expected other allies to announce troops committed to protecting specific eastern members at the summit beginning Tuesday night.

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