"We have detained members of a sabotage-terrorist group from the main intelligence directorate of the Ukrainian defense ministry," Russia's FSB security service said in a statement. "The group," it said, "planned to carry out acts of sabotage on objects of military and public infrastructure," and had in its possession "powerful explosive devices, weapons, ammunition" and communication equipment.
Moscow annexed the peninsula in 2014 amid outcries from the international community, followed by sanctions.
In August, Moscow said a group of 20 infiltrators had been found loading explosives and weapons from a hideout near the town of Armyansk in northern Crimea, on the Ukrainian border. An FSB officer and one infiltrator were reportedly killed in a shootout. Moscow said that 20 home-made explosive devices equivalent to more than 40kg of TNT, as well as ammunition, shells, and other weapons used by the Ukrainian Army Special Forces were confiscated at the scene.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said at the time that Ukrainian authorities had "resorted to practicing terrorism instead of seeking a peaceful solution to the crisis," adding that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande had been notified of what he called "gross provocation" orchestrated by Kyiv.
Kyiv rejects accusations
Kyiv has dismissed the latest accusations as "fantasies" made up by Moscow to bolster its military buildup.
"This information about the alleged detention of Ukrainian saboteurs is absolutely fake,” spokesman for the Ukrainian operation against rebels in the east, Andrey Lysenko, said. "Nobody detained any Ukrainian troops in Crimea.”
Kyiv is fighting a pro-Russian insurgency in Ukraine's eastern regions of Lugansk and Donetsk, with about 10,000 people killed since the conflict started in April 2014.
jbh (Reuters, AFP)