Moscow on US-Turkey Black Sea drills

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The joint military exercises the United States and Turkey held in the Black Sea last week “have a clear anti-Russia push”, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said during the briefing issued on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s official website on Thursday.

The drills were held near Russia’s Black Sea coast and thus threatened peace and stability in the region, the official also said, adding that the US Sixth Fleet wants “to find an enemy” in the Black Sea but is “doing this in vain.”

Washington’s explanations that the exercises are “contributing to the strengthening of security in Europe “sounded provocative,” Zakharova noted, emphasizing the US should instead influence “Kyiv in terms of the implementation of the Minsk agreements” to actually “strengthen” security on the continent.

On February 9, a group of US and Turkish naval ships supported by aircraft held a joint maritime exercise in Black Sea waters to practice hunting for a simulated enemy’s submarine. The ships were the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Donald Cook, USS Porter, and a US Navy P-8A from Patrol Squadron 46, Turkish frigates TCG Orucreis and TCG Turgutreis, and two Turkish F-16 fighters alongside reconnaissance aircraft in the Black Sea.

On February 11, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the organization is boosting its presence in the Black Sea. His comments came after a meeting with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denis Shmygal. Kiev and NATO plan to hold joint military drills in Odessa this year, Izvestia reported.

“Tensions and an arms race on the Russia-NATO contact line are on the rise, especially in the Black Sea” Dmitry Suslov, Deputy Director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the Higher School of Economics, told the newspaper.

The Black Sea is of particular importance for economic and geostrategic reasons. The region contains oil and gas resources, key energy pipelines, shipping lanes and fiber-optic cables.