MOSCOW – The Russian intelligence agency FSB said on Wednesday that one of its employees and a soldier were killed in separate incidents in Crimea described as foiled terrorist attacks.
The FSB said in a statement that its officer was killed late on Saturday outside the town of Armyansk within miles of the de-facto border between Crimea and Ukraine when FSB officers engaged with what were described as Ukrainian saboteurs. The FSB said it found 20 bombs, ammunition and mines in the area of the attack.
The agency said two more groups of saboteurs tried to force their way into Crimea late on Sunday with Ukrainian artillery and armoured personnel carriers covering for their attempted raid. The FSB said one Russian soldier died in the incoming fire.
Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014 following a hastily called referendum.
The FSB on Wednesday described the incidents as “foiled terrorist attacks” and accused the Ukrainian military intelligence of plotting to target crucial parts of Crimea’s infrastructure.
“Steps have been taken to destroy an agent network of the Chief Intelligence Department of the Ukrainian defence ministry in the Crimean peninsula,” the statement said.
The Ukrainian government reported during the weekend that Russia briefly closed its border crossings with mainland Ukraine, and social media users earlier this week posted photos and videos of dozens of armoured vehicles on Crimean highways heading toward the de-facto border.
The FSB also said it has arrested a number of Russian and Ukrainian citizens suspected of plotting attacks, including one identified as a Ukrainian intelligence officer from the southern Zaporizhzhya region.
Ukrainian Security Service chief Yuri Tandit, in comments carried by the Interfax news agency on Wednesday, denied the FSB’s report.
Earlier this month international monitors reported increased fighting between Ukrainian government troops and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine in a conflict which began in April 2014 following the Crimea referendum.
Security precautions have been bolstered at the de-facto border, Crimea’s vacation spots and key infrastructure, the FSB said.
The office of Crimea’s Russia-installed governor, Sergei Aksyonov, issued a statement on Wednesday denouncing Kyiv’s “attempts to destabilize the situation” in Crimea ahead of Russia’s September parliamentary election, and pledged to ensure security in the region.