BRUSSELS, March 29. /TASS/. NATO Standing Maritime Group 2’s exercises in the Black Sea have been "long-planned" and are unrelated to the Ukrainian presidential election. Their main aim is to practice the Sea Shield-2019 maneuvers, a NATO official told TASS on Friday.
"NATO Standing Maritime Group 2 is currently conducting patrols in the Black Sea ahead of exercise Sea Shield 2019. This exercise is a long-planned, annual exercise led by Romania. Neither the patrols, nor the exercise, are linked to events in Ukraine," the official stated in response to a TASS question relating to the coinciding dates of the NATO exercises and the Ukrainian election.
"Three Allied nations (Romania, Bulgaria, and Turkey - TASS) border the Black Sea, and NATO regularly conducts exercises and operations in the Black Sea in order to maintain credible deterrence and readiness," the official continued.
In 2018, NATO Standing Maritime Group 2 vessels had entered the Black Sea three times as part of planned exercises.
On Friday, Russia’s National Defense Management Center informed that the Russian Navy is monitoring a group of NATO vessels that have entered the Black Sea. Earlier, the Bosphorus Naval News portal reported that an operative group of NATO ships entered the Black Sea waters on Thursday. The vessels are set to participate in the Sea Shield-2019 maneuvers with Ukrainian and Georgian coast guard ships.