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11 Feb, 2021 14:53

Ukraine suggests NATO fly warplanes & troop transports near Crimea, increasing bloc’s presence on already tense Black Sea coast

Ukraine suggests NATO fly warplanes & troop transports near Crimea, increasing bloc’s presence on already tense Black Sea coast

American fighter pilots and paratroopers could soon be getting better views of the scenic Russian south, under plans by Ukraine to invite NATO nations’ warplanes to fly close to its border with the disputed Crimean peninsula.

On Thursday, the Ministry of Infrastructure in Kiev announced that it had reached out to the military bloc’s generals to offer the use of airspace in the Simferopol Flight Information Region, which covers Crimea and its frontiers with Ukraine.

As well as hoping “for NATO support in monitoring the air situation along the border with Russia,” officials have proposed the skies be “used for NATO air operations in the airspace… which includes airspace over the sovereign territory of Ukraine and over open waters, such as The Black Sea, where the responsibility for air traffic services is delegated to Ukraine by international treaties.”

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The ministry’s press service adds that “we have suggested the use of this part of the airspace for NATO air operations to transport troops, equipment, cargo, and so on.”

The move comes just days after Ukraine's Prime Minister Denis Shmigal appeared on stage for a press conference with the military bloc’s Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg. The PM told reporters that his country would “start building two naval bases, one in the Black Sea one, in the Azov Sea.” According to him, the endeavor is part of an international effort to step up the presence of Western-backed forces in the region “as part of our cooperation with Britain, [which is] also helping us financially so this program can be launched.”

Stoltenberg added that Kiev is “recognized as a candidate for NATO membership. NATO allies help and support Ukrainian efforts to join the Alliance.” Joining the US-led organization has long been an ambition for the country, but one that has been fiercely opposed by Russia over fears of more military exercises and warplanes dangerously close to its borders.

In 2020, Russian radar operators reported that around 10 flights a day near the country’s borders were by military aircraft, including spy planes. In June, Moscow broadsided the US and members of the NATO military bloc over claims they'd been conducting “provocative” aerial exercises across Russia’s frontiers in Eastern Europe.

Around the same period, American B-1B nuclear bombers flew over Ukraine for the first time in history, with Russia scrambling warplanes and activating anti-air rockets in response.

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