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NATO says Black Sea maneuvers ‘unrelated’ to Ukrainian election

NATO Standing Maritime Group 2’s exercises in the Black Sea were “long-planned” and are unrelated to the Ukrainian presidential election, an alliance official told TASS on Friday. The maritime group is currently conducting patrols in the Black Sea ahead of Sea Shield 2019 maneuvers, according to its representative. Neither the patrols, nor the exercises, are linked to events in Ukraine, the official said. On Friday, Russia’s National Defense Management Center said that the Russian Navy is monitoring a group of NATO vessels that have entered the Black Sea. In 2018, NATO Standing Maritime Group 2 vessels entered the Black Sea three times as part of planned exercises. Ukraine holds its seventh presidential election on March 31, with 39 candidates running.