Russian warships chart course for major drills in Black Sea (VIDEO)
The move comes as Moscow awaits a response to talks held with the US in an effort to reduce the risk of military conflict
A fleet of more than 20 Russian warships and support vessels has set sail for exercises in the Black Sea amid rising tensions with NATO in Eastern Europe.
The Ministry of Defense in Moscow confirmed on Wednesday that the taskforce, which includes frigates, missile boats, minesweepers and amphibious assault vessels, had left the ports of Sevastopol and Novorossiysk on the country’s southern coast.
The ships will to practice maneuvering and repelling aerial attacks, among other combat skills, officials have confirmed.
A video published by military chiefs shows two of the navy’s newest vessels taking part, including the frigate Admiral Essen, which joined the fleet in 2016, and the corvette Ingushetia, which embarked on its maiden voyage in 2019.
The drill takes place at the same time as maneuvers by Russia’s Northern Fleet in the Barents Sea, against a backdrop of heightened tensions between Russia and NATO over the border with Ukraine. Moscow has been seeking written assurances that Kiev will be barred from joining the US-led bloc. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said the demands are unacceptable but expressed hope that the two sides can find a way to de-escalate the current situation.
The bloc’s own exercises, named Neptune Strike 2022, kicked off in the Mediterranean on Monday. Ships from the USS Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group are taking part in the drill.
NATO earlier announced that it will deploy additional forces to the Baltic Sea region, closer to Russia’s borders, in response to claims that Moscow could be set to order military action against Kiev. Russian officials have consistently denied the allegations and accuse Western states of inflaming the crisis.