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MOSCOW, June 11. /ITAR-TASS/. A source with the Russian Navy said the reconnaissance ships of Italy and France, Elettra and Dupuy de Lome, will enter the Black Sea on June 15 and 16. They will replace USS Vella Gulf and the French frigate Surcouf currently stay in the region, a source in the headquarters of Russia's Black Sea Fleet told ITAR-TASS on Wednesdays.
The Elettra is expected in the Black Sea on June 15, and the Dupuy de Lome will pass the straits on June 16, the source said.
USS Vella Gulf should return to the Mediterranean on Thursday, June 12, and the French frigate will leave the Black Sea on June 17. "NATO shifts the emphasis on gathering intelligence, replacing two warships in the Black Sea with two reconnaissance vessels," the naval official said.
The Elettra and the Dupuy de Lome have been tasked with missions in the northern part of the Black Sea, in close proximity to Crimea. "This does not raise our concerns in the least," the Russian naval official said. "Such actions by NATO ships enable Russia to test various monitoring systems of the surface picture, among other things," he added.
On June 24, Poland's training vessel Wodnik will enter the Black Sea but its presence, according to the Russian Navy, is in no way related to the mission of NATO warships and reconnaissance vessels.
The Dupuy de Lome can intercept satellite-based communication, e-mail traffic and telephone conversations. The Elettra carries 27 electronic and acoustic intelligence systems, as well as an unmanned aerial vehicle.
The Dupuy de Lome last entered the Black Sea in May.
USS Vella Gulf has been in the Black Sea since May 23 (19 days) and France's Surcouf since May 28 (14 days).
In line with the international Montreux Convention governing movements at sea, warships from states not bordering the Black Sea cannot stay in its waters longer than 21 days.