Russia strengthens its presence in the Black Sea amid boiling tensions in Ukraine

Moscow — Fifteen small vessels are transferred to the sea as two Russian warships pass through the Bosphorus on their way to the Black Sea on Saturday, strengthening the Navy’s presence during a tense relationship between the West and Ukraine. Completed.

Reinforcements coincide with the huge buildup of Russian troops near Ukraine, which Moscow calls a temporary defense exercise, intensifying the fighting in eastern Ukraine between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian government troops. followed by.

Russia’s relations with Washington, which canceled the deployment of its two warships in the Black Sea last week after fierce Russian protests, are at its lowest level since the Cold War.

Moscow expelled 10 US diplomats on Friday in retaliation for expelling the same number of Russian diplomats from the United States on suspicion of malignant activity.

Russia also temporarily restricted the movement of foreign warships “and other state ships” near Crimea, which were annexed from Ukraine in 2014. This move has been criticized by both Kiev and Washington.

Two Russian Ropucha-class landers from the Russian Northern Fleet were able to carry tanks, armor and troops during a coastal attack and passed through the Bosphorus on Saturday, Reuters said in Istanbul. ..

More Russian Navy reinforcements are expected to soon pass through the Bosphorus, this time in the form of two landing craft from the Russian Baltic Fleet.

On Saturday, the RIA news agency also reported that 15 small vessels from Russia’s Caspian Flotilla had completed their transfer to the Black Sea as part of their exercises.

Romania’s NATO military logistics trucks and ships carrying equipment have passed through the Bosphorus Strait as a further sign of increasing tensions in the region, according to a Reuters reporter.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in St. Petersburg that Russia’s FSB security services had temporarily detained Ukrainian diplomats.

Interfax previously quoted the FSB as detaining Oleksandr Sosoniuk while attempting to obtain sensitive information from a Russian law enforcement database during a meeting with Russian citizens.

Andrew Osborne in Moscow and Jörg Ishiku in Istanbul