Russia has accused the United States of making “aggressive moves” in the Black Sea region, warning that Moscow will act to defend its security in the face of any threat in the strategic area.
The Russian Defense Ministry said on Friday that the recent US military actions in the Black Sea were “aggressive,” and “posed a threat to regional and strategic stability.”
The ministry said it had detected six NATO reconnaissance flights over the Black Sea in the past 24 hours, stressing that, “Russia will act to defend its security if there is any threatening action by its opponents along its borders.”
The Black Sea is a sensitive security zone for Moscow as it is located near the Crimean Peninsula, which rejoined Russia in a 2014 referendum in what was claimed by the West to be the “annexation” of Crimea.
NATO has recently ramped up activities in the form of holding drills and deployment of warships in the strategic region in a move expected to provoke response from Russia along its western borders. Moreover, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described on Friday as “provocative” the increase in NATO’s activities in the Black Sea and presence of Western spy planes in the region.
Peskov also dismissed a Western media report on the US concerns about Russia’s possible attack on Ukraine, saying Russia has posed no threat to any country.
“Such headlines do nothing more than pointlessly and groundlessly fuel tensions. Russia does not pose a threat to anyone,” said Peskov. “We have repeatedly said that the movement of our armed forces on our territory should not be a cause for concern.”
The Russian Defense Ministry said on Tuesday that the United States was setting up a multinational group of armed forces close to Russia's border in the Black Sea region.
The ministry was reported by Russia's TASS news agency as saying that the US Navy's guided missile destroyer Porter, tanker vessel John Lenthall, and command ship Mount Whitney were currently deployed to the Black Sea to take part in multinational drills that the US European Command is holding in the strategic region.
Two US Air Force B-1B long-range strategic bombers were reported by the ministry to have performed flights over the Black Sea at a distance of 100 kilometers from the Russian state border.
President Vladimir Putin and other top Russian officials have previously warned that the expansion of NATO activities near Russia’s borders is a "red line" for Moscow. The Russian navy said in a statement last week that the Black Sea Fleet had rehearsed destroying mock enemy targets during drills in the Black Sea.
The Russian media also reported that the fleet's air defense systems had been put on alert at its bases in the port city of Novorossiysk and on the Crimean Peninsula.
Russia has repeatedly accused NATO of carrying out provocative activities close to its borders.
Russia, Belarus hold joint drills near Poland
In a separate development on Friday, Belarus and Russia held snap joint military drills near Belarus's western border with EU member Poland, where a migrant crisis is unfolding.
The Belarusian Defense Ministry said the drills were carried out due to increased military activities near its border, adding that Russian jets and Belarusian helicopters were involved in the exercises. “The exercise at the Gozhsky training ground involved airborne units landing and carrying out combat training, including capturing and holding a bridgehead and searching and destroying enemy targets.”
Russia’s Defense Ministry confirmed in a statement that its paratroopers were taking part in the exercise.
The drills come in the midst of escalating tensions between Minsk and Warsaw over the migrant crisis. Thousands of asylum seekers have been stuck for days near the Belarusian border, with Minsk saying Warsaw is violating international norms by blocking the migrants and beating them back with force.