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14 Apr, 2021 11:41

Moscow orders ships to conduct Black Sea naval exercises amid confusion over whether US will deploy warships to volatile region

Russian sailors will carry out a series of exercises in the Black Sea, including practicing the sinking of enemy vessels. It comes after reports, as yet unconfirmed by the Pentagon, claimed US warships were headed to the region.

In a statement seen by local media on Wednesday, defense chiefs said that the frigate Admiral Makarov had been dispatched to the waters, along with ships Grayvoron and Vyshny Volochek, which will be supported by a missile-wielding hovercraft and a minesweeper. Large landing vessels, used for amphibious invasions, will also take part in the process, along with warplanes and helicopters.

According to the statement, they will rehearse firing on surface-level enemies, as well as taking out air support. “The role of a mock enemy will be played by maritime targets,” the officials said. At the same time, commanders of the Southern Russian Military District confirmed that vessels from the Caspian Flotilla were en route to the Black Sea, where they would rendezvous with a fleet already based in the region.

The move comes after Turkish diplomats claimed they were notified that two US naval vessels would pass through the Bosphorus strait and into the Black Sea. The envoys said they had been “notified through diplomatic channels 15 days ago that two US warships would enter the Black Sea. The ships will remain there until 4 May.”

The move was widely seen as a show of support for Ukraine, where hostilities between government forces and troops fighting for two breakaway republics in the east of the country have escalated in recent days. Kiev and the US have both expressed concern over a reported buildup of Russian troops on the shared border, with a number of analysts claiming the deployments are a prelude to war.

Fox News' National Security correspondent claimed on Tuesday that the Pentagon had denied that its two warships are headed for the Black Sea. Jennifer Griffin tweeted that US officials said Russia is using false reports to justify military deployments on the border with Ukraine. However, she did not name the person who made the statement. Last week, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby denied that anything outside of routine operations were taking place, insisting that there was "nothing new" in claims to the contrary.

On Tuesday, Moscow’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu visited the units stationed near the frontier for a surprise check of their combat readiness. “The troops have shown full readiness and ability to fulfill the tasks of ensuring the country’s military security,” he said. “Currently, these associations and formations are engaged in drills and exercises.”

Shoigu added that the redeployments had taken place “in response to the military activity of the alliance that threatens Russia.” The Kremlin has also previously insisted that the increased presence in the region is a response to activity by the US-led NATO military bloc.

Also on rt.com Russian troops on Ukraine border ‘ready to defend country’ in event of war says Defense Minister Shoigu, warning of NATO buildup

The minister also claimed that “Washington’s troops are being transferred from the continental parts of North America across the Atlantic to Europe, and these troops are moving through Europe to the Russian borders. The main forces are concentrated in the Black Sea and the Baltic region.”

READ MORE: US should stay clear of Crimea & Black Sea ‘for its own good,’ says Moscow's deputy FM, as American warships move closer to Russia

The news that US sailors might be headed towards Russia’s south coast drew sharp criticism in Moscow, with Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov telling journalists that there is “absolutely nothing” that requires American presence in the region. “Provocative in the literal sense of the word: they are testing our strength, playing on our nerves. They won’t succeed,” he said. Staying away, Ryabkov claimed, would “be for their own good.”

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