Reuters reports: The Pentagon on Friday estimated as many as 20,000 Russian troops may be in Crimea but acknowledged its information was imperfect, as U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel praised the restraint of Ukrainian forces.
Russian President Vladimir Putin denies that the forces with no national insignia that are surrounding Ukrainian troops in their bases are under Moscow’s command. The West has ridiculed his assertion.
Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby, asked about the number of Russian forces in Crimea, cited estimates of up to around 20,000 of them. Pressed on the 20,000 figure, Kirby said: “That’s a good estimate right now.”
“But it’s just an estimate. And as I said, we don’t have perfect visibility on the numbers,” Kirby said at a Pentagon news conference.
Ukraine’s border guards have put the figure far higher.
Serhiy Astakhov, an aide to the border guards’ commander, said 30,000 Russian soldiers were now in Crimea, compared with the 11,000 permanently based with the Russian Black Sea fleet in the port of Sevastopol before the crisis. [Continue reading…]