A total of 32 countries began conducting military exercises in the Black Sea on Monday, despite strong criticism from Russia.
The United States and Ukraine are conducting the “Sea Breeze” exercises. They are expected to last two weeks, according to the US military.
The Russian Foreign Ministry called the exercises provocation and alleged that they were used to transport weapons and military equipment to Ukraine.
Military exercises and relations with Russia
The exercises come days after Moscow said its navy fired warning shots and dropped bombs on the way to a British warship to drive it out of the Black Sea waters off the Crimean coast.
Russia said the British Navy ship violated its territorial waters. The UK dismissed Moscow’s account of the incident and said the ship was making “an innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters in accordance with international law”.
Russia annexed Crimea to Ukraine in 2014. However, many countries around the world do not recognize the annexation and consider the region to be part of Ukrainian territory.
How big are the Sea Breeze exercises?
Thirty-two countries from six continents are participating in this year’s exercises. This represents the largest turnout in the history of the exercises, which have been held annually since 1997.
More than 5,000 troops, 32 ships and 40 aircraft, as well as 18 special operations and diving teams, are involved this year.
They are said to focus on areas such as amphibious warfare, diving operations, air defense, and anti-submarine warfare, among others.
The Russian Navy kept a close watch on the US destroyer USS Ross as it entered the Black Sea on Saturday, Interfax reported citing the Russian Defense Ministry.
sri / rt (dpa, AFP)