RUSSIA PANIC: Two Russian Navy Escorts Three NATO Warships in Black Sea on Way to Ukraine - Two Russian warships are escorting three frigates of the NATO in the Black Sea, Russian media reported Friday.
The Ivan Khurs reconnaissance ship and the Vasily Bykov corvette of the Russia Black Sea Fleet are monitoring the movement of the NATO vessels, TASS news agency said, quoting the National Defense Management Center.
Turkish DNA agency reported earlier in the day that three frigates, Canadian Toronto, Spanish Santa Maria and Dutch Evertsen, have passed the Bosporus Strait on their way to the Black Sea.
The commander of a NATO maritime group said Dutch, Spanish, Canadian, Turkish, Romanian and Bulgarian frigates entered the Black Sea on Thursday. The warships are part of the alliance’s defense cooperation exercises taking place on April 8-12. Two of the frigates are scheduled to make a port call in the Ukrainian city of Odessa on April 1.
The NATO has been conducting exercises with Georgia, located on the Black Sea, From March 18 to March 29, involving 343 military and civilian personnel from 21 NATO members, Azerbaijan, Sweden and Georgia.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg expressed "concerns about Russia's military build-up in the Black Sea region" at a press conference on Monday in Georgia's capital of Tbilisi.
Stoltenberg said NATO has increased its presence in the Black Sea to address the "security challenges."
Russia has just completed drills in Crimea, involving more than 1,500 paratroopers, over 300 pieces of equipment, warplanes, helicopters and large landing ships, the Russian Defense Ministry said Friday.
NATO and Russian military maneuvers were conducted ahead of the Ukrainian presidential election on March 31, when incumbent President Petro Poroshenko will seek a re-election.
Russia issued a statement criticizing “frequent visitors” to the Black Sea in January, when the U.S. Navy-guided missile destroyer Donald Cook entered the region. The Russian Black Sea fleet began monitoring the warship at the time as well.
According to international law, vessels belonging to states that do not border the Black Sea path are allowed to stay there for no more than 21 days.
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