U.S. Navy sends two warships to the Black Sea as tensions between Russia and Ukraine boil

Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Friday that the United States would send two warships to the Black Sea next week, urging Russia, which has strengthened its military power near Ukraine, to express concern about NATO’s forces, which do not have a coastline in the region. Increased naval activity.

“Fifteen days ago, in line with the Montreux Convention, a notice was sent through a diplomatic route that two U.S. warships would cross the Black Sea. The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Turkey controlled the Bosphorus and Dardanels Straits and the Navy. Mentioning an international agreement to regulate the movement of ships, he said the ships would remain in the Black Sea until May 4.

The Pentagon refused to discuss Turkey’s comments, but said the military would send ships to the area on a regular basis.

“That’s not new,” said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, referring to US Navy vessels in the Black Sea in Washington.

Major Matthew Kammer, Spokesman for the Sixth Fleet, Told military dot com The US Navy is regularly stationed in the Black Sea, but did not say if there were any ships currently heading to the Black Sea.

“As a matter of policy, we don’t discuss future operations or ship schedules,” Kammer told the outlet.

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The guided missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea departs Mayport Naval Base in Mayport, Florida on February 15, 2014. (Mass Communication Specialist Level 2 Marcus L. Stanley / US Navy via AP)

Russia’s deputy foreign minister Alexander Grushko was quoted by Russian news agency Interfax on Friday as saying that Moscow was concerned about increased activity in the Black Sea by governments not bordering its waters.

“The responsibility for keeping the Black Sea safe lies with the Black Sea countries themselves, who have created all the necessary tools for this, including the Black Sea economic cooperation,” Grushko told Interfax.

Washington says Russia has merged Crimea from Ukraine and has gathered many troops on the eastern border of Ukraine since 2014, when it assisted pro-Russian separatists in the eastern Donbas region of Ukraine.

Kirby was asked at April 6 press conference Whether Ukraine sought special assistance from the US military in the light of the buildup of Russian troops.

“I don’t know the specific requirements for ability in this regard,” Kirby told reporters, “we are both non-lethal and lethal so that they can better protect themselves.” Supports Ukraine with its items. “

“As we said yesterday, we will continue to support Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, and we will continue to call on Russia not to provoke and increase tensions.”

Since Russia merged Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, regular skirmishes have been held between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, and it is estimated that approximately 14,000 people have been killed in the fighting. .. In late March, Ukraine said four soldiers had been killed in a Russian bombardment in Donbas.

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Ukrainian military personnel are working on tanks near the front lines with Russian-backed separatists near Lysychans’k in the Lugansk region on April 7, 2021. (STR / AFP via Getty Images)

Due to heightened tensions in recent weeks, Russia has reportedly begun to gather troops near the Ukrainian border, and Moscow reportedly conducted regular “combat readiness” inspections of the troops on April 6. Announced that it has started.

On Thursday, Russia’s Deputy Chief of Staff Vladimir Putin said Dmitry Kozak would be “forced” to intervene if Ukraine launched a full-scale hostilities in Donbas. Mr Kozak also noted that the Ukrainian president had visited the eastern front of the country, saying the move was “playing with fire.”

According to a statement by the President of Ukraine, Zelensky visited a position on Thursday along the front line where the ceasefire was “recently systematically violated” with the aim of “maintaining fighting spirit.” Ukrainian officials said another soldier was killed earlier Thursday after separatists fired on Ukrainian positions with mortars and artillery, bringing the number of troops killed to 25 since the beginning of the year. ..

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on April 2 that the deployment of NATO troops in Ukraine would increase tensions between Kiev and Moscow.

Ukrainian army landing from Mi-8 helicopter
Ukrainian troops will land from a Mi-8 helicopter built with a Motor Sich engine during an Air Force exercise in western Ukraine on October 12, 2018. (GenyaSavilov / AFP via Getty Images)

On Monday, the US State Department said it judged the report of Russia’s military action at the Ukrainian border to be “reliable” and called on Moscow to explain the “provocation.”

State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters, “I urge Russia to refrain from escalating,” but it’s clear whether Washington believes Russia is preparing for an invasion. I didn’t.

“We asked Russia to explain these provocations,” Price said. “But more importantly, it is a reassuring message that we signaled our Ukrainian partners.”

Price’s comment came after U.S. President Joe Biden made his first call with Zelensky on Friday, when he said in Washington about “Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s continued aggression.” Confirmed support.

Ukrainian President Zelensky meets with European Council President Michelle in Kiev
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke at a joint news conference with Chairman Charles Michel of the European Council on March 3, 2021 in Kiev, Ukraine. (Pool via Sergei Dorgenco / Reuters)

Throughout Europe, US troops are increasing their vigilance in response to the “recent escalation of Russia’s invasion in eastern Ukraine.”

Zelensky on Tuesday demanded Ukraine join NATO and was immediately criticized by Moscow. Kiev’s approach to the Western military alliance could further fuel the flames of conflict, he said.

“Unfortunately, the situation is still complicated and tends to escalate,” said Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, at a briefing in Moscow on Friday to address tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

“We also paid attention to the statement of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who visited Donbas yesterday. NATO membership is said to end the conflict in the region,” Zakarowa said.

“Fictitious accession to the alliance, contrary to Kiev’s expectations, does not bring peace to Ukraine, but it can bring about massive expansion in its southeastern part and irreversible consequences for the Ukrainian state.” She added.

The United States has reaffirmed Ukraine’s commitment to sovereignty and territorial integrity, but has not publicly endorsed Kiev’s call for a faster path to NATO accession.

“We have been discussing Ukraine and its aspirations for a long time,” White House spokesman Jen Psaki said on Tuesday when asked about Ukraine’s recent promotion to join the Western military alliance.

“We strongly support them,” she added. “But that’s a decision NATO makes.”

Reuters contributed to this report.