MOSCOW, Russia – The Russian Defense Ministry said on Monday that the Black Sea Fleet Pytlivy patrol vessel is monitoring the actions of the USS Fort McHenry landing craft that entered the Black Sea waters on January 6.
“Patrol ship Pytlivy of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is performing a complex of activities to control the actions of amphibious transport dock (LSD) USS Fort McHenry”, the ministry said in a statement.
The statement noted that the ship had been in the Black Sea since 9:00 p.m. Moscow time (18:00 GMT), January 6.
“As of 9:30 a.m. (6:30 GMT), the ship entered the Romanian port of Constanta”, the ministry added.
Commander of the US 6th Fleet Vice Adm. Lisa M. Franchetti said that the vessel’s transit to the Black Sea shows collective commitment to the Black Sea security.
Earlier, US special representative for Ukraine, Kurt Volker, said Washington should consider increasing its presence in the Black Sea.
Tensions increased in the Black Sea mainly after the events on 25 November when three Ukrainian ships illegally entered Russian territorial waters and were detained along with 24 crew members. Following the incident, a criminal proceeding over the illegal border crossing was opened by Russia. Moscow also believes that the presence of US and NATO ships in the Black Sea will only serve to increase tensions and put Europe at risk of a military conflict.
There were no deaths as a result of the impasse, but Ukrainian ships were seized and sailors on board are now awaiting trial in Russia.
The incident, which occurred in the area that used to be Russian territorial waters, even before its reunification with the Crimea in 2014, was marked as an “aggression” in Washington and caused the cancellation of a long-awaited summit between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.
US Special Representative for Ukraine, Kurt Volker, urged the US to “increase presence in the Black Sea” in cooperation with Turkey or the European Union (EU).
Ukraine’s Deputy Minister of the Occupied Territories, Yury Hrymchak, went even further, suggesting that the British Navy navigate one of its vessels across the Kerch Strait in the name of freedom of navigation.
“It would be interesting to see how the Russians will react,” he teased.