As part of Russian territory Crimea can host nuclear weapons – Foreign Ministry

Nuclear payload on a trolley in a tunnel of the nuclear arsenal loading area at the Balaklava Naval Museum (submarine museum) in the Crimea (RIA Novosti / Mihail Mokrushin)
The Russian Foreign Ministry has no information on nuclear weapons deployment in Crimea, but maintains that the country has the right to do so in principle.

I don’t know if there are any nuclear weapons there at the moment and I am not aware of such plans, but in principle Russia can do this,” the head of the ministry’s Department for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Weapons Control, Mikhail Ulyanov, told a Wednesday press conference in Moscow.

Naturally Russia has the right to put nuclear weapons in any region on its territory if it deems it necessary. We hold that we have such a right, though Kiev has a different opinion on this matter,” RIA Novosti quoted Ulyanov as saying.

In mid-January this year, Russia’s Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov said that in 2015 the nation will focus on reinforcing its military on the Crimean Peninsula.

In 2015, the Defense Ministry’s main efforts will focus on an increase of combat capabilities of the armed forces and increasing the military staff in accordance with military construction plans. Much attention will be given to the groupings in Crimea, Kaliningrad and the Arctic,” Gerasimov said.

Earlier this month Russia’s Navy chief, Admiral Viktor Chirkov, announced plans for a major rearmament of the force, including the Black Sea Fleet stationed in Sevastopol, Crimea.

The Crimean Republic became part of the Russian Federation a year ago, after over 96 percent of its residents – the majority of whom are ethnic Russians – voted for the move in an urgently called referendum. The decision was prompted by the change of regime in Ukraine, which ousted the democratically-elected president and government.

In mid-March this year Russia’s public opinion research center VTSIOM conducted a poll that showed that today over 90 percent of Crimean residents have positive feelings about the reunification with Russia.