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Russia’s General Staff views NATO drills in Barents Sea as provocation

The exercises practiced striking targets in Russian territory and intercepting Russian ballistic missiles, according to official data

MOSCOW, June 1. /TASS/. Russia’s General Staff considers NATO military exercises in the Barents Sea in early May as a provocation, Chief of the Main Operations Directorate of Russia’s General Staff Colonel General Sergei Rudskoi said on Monday.

"NATO has stepped up its activity in the Arctic. For the first time since the end of the Cold War on the eve of celebrating the 75th anniversary of Victory over Nazi Germany a task force of warships of the NATO joint naval forces held drills in the Barents Sea. During the exercises they practiced the tasks of striking targets in Russian territory and intercepting Russian ballistic missiles. We view these steps as a provocation although the US side had notified us about the entry of these ships in the Barents Sea on short notice," Rudskoi said.

According to Rudskoi, the NATO naval task force consisted of three guided missile destroyers, which are the backbone of the naval component of the European segment of the global US missile defense system. Besides, the drills involved a nuclear submarine and a universal support ship of the US Navy and a frigate of the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom.

The general noted that thanks to active steps of the Russian Northern Fleet the NATO task force was located and the ships were escorted. "This allowed us to prevent incidents and demonstrated our determination to defend our interests in the Arctic," he said.

On May 4, the US Sixth Fleet announced that on May 1 it notified the Russian Defense Ministry about the entry of US and UK ships in the Barents sea in an effort to "avoid misperceptions, reduce risk and prevent inadvertent escalation." The Fleet noted that it was "committed to promoting regional security and stability, while building trust and reinforcing a foundation of Arctic readiness."

The Russian National Defense Management Center said on May 4 that the Northern Fleet’s forces escorted the ships that had entered the Barents Sea.