Ukraine, US to conduct joint military drills in Black Sea

Ukraine, US to conduct joint military drills in Black Sea
The Ukrainian and US navies will take part in a joint exercise called “Sea Breeze 2014” on September 8-10 in the northwestern part of the Black Sea, Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense said.

READ MORE: ‘Promoting peace and stability’: NATO warships enter Black Sea

Around 280 US servicemen will participate in the drills, according to a statement by US European Command spokesman Navy Capt. Greg Hicks, director of Communication and Engagement.

The exercises will include representatives from five countries – including Georgia, Romania and Turkey – as well as the Standing NATO Maritime Group TWO Task Unit 02 (including Canadian, Spanish, and Romanian ships).

The Canadian frigate HMCS Toronto (Reuters / Paul Darrow)

The planned military exercises are said to be focused on how interdiction operations could enhance maritime security.

Also, the US – along with France, Italy, Poland and Norway – will supply modern weapons to Ukraine, according to President Petro Poroshenko’s aide, Yury Lutsenko. The agreements were reached at the NATO summit in Wales, he wrote on Sunday on Facebook. The West will also send military advisers to Ukraine, he added.

However, Norway later denied the report saying it has no plans to send arms or military hardware to Ukraine, the Royal Defense Ministry’s spokesman, Lars Gjemble, told Itar-Tass.

We are now trying to find out why such information was distributed,” he said. Gjemble said that two General Staff officers will represent Copenhagen at military drills that are planned to be held in Ukraine. But there is nothing new about it as Norway has been taking part in such exercises for years, the spokesperson added.

Shortly after, the US, Italy, and Poland also refuted the report.

Washington has not made an offer of "lethal assistance" to Ukraine, a senior US official told Reuters on Sunday.

An Italian defense ministry official also called the news “incorrect.”

Italy, along with other EU and NATO countries, is preparing a package of non-lethal military aid such as bullet-proof vests and helmets for Ukraine,” the official said.

Meanwhile, NATO is in the midst of its seven-day military exercises in Latvia. The organization says the drills are aimed at showing its commitment to Baltic member states in the face of an “assertive” Russia.

READ MORE: NATO stages massive military drills in Latvia (PHOTOS)

Exercise Steadfast Javelin 2 kicked off on September 2. It simulates the deployment of NATO soldiers and equipment during a crisis situation. A total of around 2,000 soldiers from nine different countries are taking part in the maneuvers, which will carry on until Monday.

The exercises in Latvia will be followed by other drills in Germany, Norway, Ukraine, and Poland later this autumn.

A crew prepares for the departure of Ukrainian naval landing vessel "Konstantin Olshansky" (Reuters)

Moreover, following the NATO summit in Wales, a plan to create a new rapid reaction force in Eastern Europe was announced, likely numbering at least 4,000 and ready to be deployed within 48 hours.

The Baltic states and Romania have already offered to host the force.

READ MORE: At least 4,000 troops: NATO approves new E. Europe-based spearhead force