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MOSCOW, April 10. /ITAR-TASS/. NATO is actively building its naval presence in the Black Sea in view of sharp aggravation of the Ukraine crisis, a Russian Defense Ministry source told ITAR-TASS on Thursday.
“Destroyer USS Donald Cook equipped with the Aegis combat missile defense system has just entered the Black Sea. According to our information, it is going to be joined by French reconnaissance ship Dupuy de Lome by April 11. French Navy’s destroyer Dupleix is expected to enter the Black Sea on April 14,” the source went on to say.
“Considering the presence of the French Navy’s rescue vessel Alize in the south-eastern part of the Black Sea since late March, we can say that NATO is building a naval grouping in the Black Sea in the vicinity of the Russian border for the first time since 2008,” the Russian Defense Ministry source said.
“NATO has stopped muddying the waters claiming that the Black Sea calls of its military ships are planned and regular. Now they are openly declaring that the visits are linked directly to the events in Ukraine,” the Russian Defense Ministry went on to say, explaining NATO’s actions pursued several goals simultaneously.
“First, they want to give a moral boost to the authorities in Kiev; second, they need to demonstrate strength to Russia in a bid to deter it. Third, they need to collect reconnaissance information about the actions of the Russian military command in Crimea and other Russian regions bordering on Ukraine, including radio and electronic surveillance against our Armed Forces,” the Russian Defense Ministry source stressed.
The United States and France notified Turkey in advance that they had sent their ships to the Black Sea in full compliance with the Montreux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits. It is the fourth time that a US naval ship has entered the Black Sea since February 2014. “During its current Black Sea visit the Donald Cook may also call at ports in Turkey and Romania. It is still unknown whether it is going to call at the Ukrainian port of Odessa as a demonstration of support for the current leadership in Kiev,” the source went on to say.
The Russian Defense Ministry regards the appearance of a US warship with the Aegis combat missile defense system onboard as manifestation of the US desire to deploy the naval component of its missile defense system as close to Russia as possible.
“Given the fact that the deployment of the elements of US missile defence system in the inland territories of US European allies, including Romania, will take a long time, the Americans decided to increase the intensity of sending its guided-missile naval ships to the Black Sea,” the Russian Defense Ministry said.
“US naval ships have been rotating in the Black Sea area on a regular basis since February 2014. One US warship which leaves the Black Sea is replaced by another vessel or even several ships. It is quite possible that the same practice will be applied to Aegis ships,” the Russian Defense Ministry said.
USS Donald Cook
The Donald Cook will become one of the four US warships equipped with the Aegis combat missile defense systems. They are capable of destroying ballistic missiles and form the basic strike element of the initial stage of deployment of the US missile defense system in Europe. These forces will be united into a unified system with a single early warning radar based in Turkey and launch unit for the ground-based Aegis missiles which is under construction in Romania and which is due to be put on combat duty in 2018.
According to provisions of the Montreux Convention which regulates the passage of warships through the Bosporus Straits and the Dardanelles into the Black Sea, the warships of the Non-Black Sea can stay in the Black Sea for 21 days. The total tonnage of warships allowed for each country is 30,000 tonnes. Two US ships, including USS Mount Whitney and frigate Taylor, were present in the Black Sea simultaneously during the Sochi Olympic Games.
The Mount Whitney met the deadlines under the Monteux Convention while the Taylor stayed longer under the pretext of repairing a screw-propeller in the Turkish port of Samsun at the exit from the Black Sea.
Another US naval ship, destroyer USS Triton, materialized in the Black Sea in March in view of the Ukraine crisis and growing tensions in Crimea. It called at the ports in Romania and Bulgaria and conducted joint naval exercises with Romanian and Bulgarian warships. The US command called that visit regular. USS Triton entered the Black Sea on March 7 and left it on March 21 in full compliance with the Monteux Convention.