MOSCOW, March 18. /TASS/. The number of flights by NATO spy planes near the Crimean Peninsula has risen by 60% after a provocation in the Kerch Strait in 2018, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Andrei Kartapolov said at a roundtable discussion on Crimea’s reunification with Russia held at the Federation Council on Thursday.
NATO’s military presence in the Black Sea region has grown sharply after Crimea’s reunification with Russia, he said.
"US ships, reconnaissance aircraft and drones regularly approach the Russian borders. After the Ukrainian Navy’s Kerch provocation in November 2018, NATO’s activity in the region has intensified further. The number of spy aircraft flights has grown by 40% in the region and by 60% near the Crimean Peninsula," the deputy defense minister said.
On November 25, 2018, three Ukrainian naval ships violated the rules of passage from the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov. The intruding Ukrainian vessels illegally crossed the Russian state border, trespassed into Russian territorial waters and conducted dangerous maneuvers. In defiance of repeated warnings and demands to halt, the Ukrainian ships carried on violating the law, which drove the Russian forces to use gunfire in order to compel them to stop. As a result, all the three ships and 24 Ukrainian sailors were detained. A criminal case was opened over the violation of the Russian state border.
In the same year, the Ukrainian security services seized two Russian vessels: the fishing boat Nord and the tanker Mechanic Pogodin. On July 25, 2019, Ukraine’s Security Service detained the Russian tanker Nika Spirit at the Black Sea port of Izmail in the Odessa Region where it arrived for repairs.