Russia will replace more than 50 percent of military equipment obtained from Ukraine with domestically built products in 2015, a defense ministry spokesman announced Friday. The move comes as part of the Kremlin’s import substitution programs, aimed at providing alternatives to foreign-made military products amid Western economic sanctions against the Russian Federation.
According to the defense ministry spokesman, Russia has implemented two import substitution programs in the country’s defense industry in an attempt to replace equipment obtained from Ukraine and NATO countries, the state-owned Tass news agency reported.
“Both programs are being implemented,” Tass quoted the spokesman as saying. “Talking about Ukraine, elements will be replaced by 53% by the end of the year, these are spare parts. If we are talking about equipment, then it will be around 67%.”
The spokesman also said that Russia’s defense industry is developing more rapidly, despite sanctions imposed on the country by Western powers over Moscow’s alleged involvement in the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine.
“We will construct many outdated units over again by ourselves, we do not need the old Ukrainian ones,” RIA Novosti quoted the spokesman as saying.
The West has criticized Russia for allegedly backing pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine in their fight against Kiev forces. While Ukraine accuses Russia of sending troops to support the separatists in the country’s eastern regions, Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly denied such claims.
Earlier this week, the Ukrainian security forces said that they captured a Russian Army major, who had allegedly delivered explosives to pro-Russian rebels.
The Ukrainian crisis is said to have led to the worst rift in U.S.-Russia relations since the Cold War. While Russia has stepped up surveillance of NATO’s defense capabilities over the past few months, the intergovernmental military alliance has also increased its military presence in Eastern Europe.
“In 2012 and 2013 NATO conducted on the average nearly 90-95 exercises near Russia’s borders. Now they conduct about 150 exercises,” a spokesman for the Russian defense ministry told Tass on Friday. “There’s been a sharp increase in [reconnaissance aviation] flights - their number grew nine times.”