Ukraine and NATO launch joint exercises on the Black Sea
KYIV, UKRAINE – Ukraine and NATO launched exercises on the Black Sea on Monday that will involve dozens of warships, an exercise that follows last week’s incident with a British destroyer off the coast of Crimea.
Moscow said one of its warships fired warning shots and a warplane dropped bombs on the way to the British destroyer Defender on Wednesday to force it out of an area near the Crimean Peninsula, that Russia annexed in 2014.
Britain has denied the account, insisted its ship was not shot and said it was sailing in Ukrainian waters.
The 2021 Sea Breeze maneuvers which began on Monday and will last two weeks are expected to involve around 30 warships and 40 aircraft from the United States and its NATO allies and Ukraine. The American destroyer Ross has arrived in the Ukrainian port of Odessa for the exercises.
U.S. Navy Captain Kyle Gantt noted Monday that a large number of exercise participants reflects a shared commitment to ensure free access to international waters.
Moscow has criticized the exercises and the Russian Defense Ministry said it will monitor them closely.
In Wednesday’s incident, Britain insisted the Defender made a routine trip through an internationally recognized taxiway and remained in Ukrainian waters near Crimea. The UK, like most countries in the world, recognizes Crimea as part of Ukraine despite Russia’s annexation of the peninsula.
Russia denounced the Defender’s decision as a provocation and warned that next time he could shoot to hit intruding warships if they tried to test Russian military resolve again.