By By Staff ReporterPosted Feb 12, 2014 05:54:03President Vladimir Putin announced on Tuesday that Russian-backed troops had taken over Crimea from separatist groups, as part of a campaign to end a three-year separatist insurgency in the predominantly Russian-speaking peninsula.

A senior Russian military official, Maj. Gen. Sergey Shoigu, told reporters that Russian forces had seized two airports in Crimea, including one controlled by the self-declared “people’s republics” in the Black Sea resort of Simferopol, and that they were preparing to start a major offensive against the separatist-held city of Novorossiysk.

“The Russian armed forces and our servicemen in the military bases and military bases of the Russian Federation are on the offensive in the cities of Novgorod, Kharkiv and Sevastopol,” Shoigou said.

“Our servicemen are actively conducting operations in the towns of Krasnodon, Kherson and Volgograd.”

In the past week, the Russian military has seized control of at least four airports in the region, and the Russian state-owned company Rosneft has also made major investments in Crimean ports.

According to a statement from the Russian government, Putin declared a military campaign to “degrade the enemy,” which he said was aimed at ending “the destabilizing and hostile actions” in Crimea and other regions.

“As we declare the offensive, we do not wish to leave any unanswered questions,” Shoibu said.

He added that Russian troops would not retreat and would continue to “exercise their right to self-defense.”

The move comes as Russian-supported forces in Crimea continue to push back against the Ukrainian military, which has launched a full-scale offensive in support of the pro-Russia separatists in the east of the peninsula.

The pro-Western separatist movement, known as the Donetsk People’s Republic, is based in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Russia-backed separatists, backed by pro-Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, seized the Crimean peninsula in March 2014.

Since then, the separatist movement has staged a series of rebellions in the separatist stronghold of Donetsk, with pro-Moscow rebels battling the Ukrainian army in the city of Mariupol, and pro-Kiev forces in the restive region of Donetsk.