Russia is conducting military exercises in the Black Sea, involving a dozen planes and some ships, the Russian news agency “Interfax” reported, citing the Russian Black Sea fleet, as said Wednesday.
The exercises come in amid the heightened tension between Russia and the West over Ukraine, with US officials expressing concern about a possible Russian attack on Ukraine, which the Kremlin denies.
The Russian Black Sea Fleet is based in Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014 and which Kiev wants to recover from Moscow.
For its part, the Ukrainian Navy said Tuesday that it had received two patrol boats from the US Coast Guard following their arrival in the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Odessa, with the aim of improving their capabilities.
“We appreciate the contribution of the United States in deterring the armed aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine,” said commander of the Ukrainian naval forces Oleksiy Nezbaba.
It is part of a US aid package to Ukraine of more than $ 2.5 billion since 2014, the year in Russia annexed Crimea and Russian-backed separatists seized parts of eastern Ukraine.
In a related context, Russian and American chiefs of staff held a telephone conversation on Tuesday, according to the Russian defense ministry.
And the ministry announced in a statement that General Valery Rasimov discussed with his American counterpart Mark Milley “current issues related to international security”, without further details.
The US Department of Defense confirmed the call in a statement, stating that the talks included “troubling security issues”.
The US Department of Defense said “the phone call is a continuation of the communication between the two commanders to ensure that risks are reduced and the cause of friction are removed “.
This month, the United States, NATO and the European Union expressed concern about Russian troop movements in Ukraine.
Moscow has denied any hostile intentions and blamed the West, from which Kiev has said it wants to buy more “defensive” weapons.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday that any move by the United States to send more military equipment and advisers in Ukraine would only increase the tension.
For its part, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Tuesday accused Washington of sending its bombers to train for a nuclear attack on Russia, from the east and west, during the “Global Thunder” military exercises.
A defense ministry statement quoted him as saying: “The minimum approach to our border was 20 kilometers (12 miles).”
Shoigu added that Russia has seen a “significant” increase in US strategic bombing activity, saying it has made 30 sorties near Russia this month.
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