Russia's military has been monitoring the US navy’s guided missile destroyer USS Arleigh Burke after it entered the Black Sea amid tensions in the region, the country's Defense Ministry says.
"The Black Sea Fleet’s forces have begun to monitor the guided missile destroyer the USS Arleigh Burke, which entered the Black Sea on November 25, 2021," TASS news agency cited the National Defense Command Center as saying Thursday.
The US Sixth Fleet said the Arleigh Burke had entered the Black Sea to conduct what it described as routine patrol.
"While in the Black Sea, the ship will operate alongside NATO allies and partners in the region, working together to ensure security and stability in this vital international waterway," it said in a statement.
Earlier this month, the Mount Whitney, a US naval command ship, made a similar visit to the Black Sea and the Russian military also tracked its actions.
The Russian Defense Ministry has slammed the deployment of US naval ships as a destabilizing factor in the region.
The US and its allies have stepped their military buildup in the region under the pretext that Russia was planning an invasion of Ukraine.
Moscow says it has no plans to invade Ukraine, but warned against any provocations from the neighboring country that could trigger such an invasion.
'Drills aim to spark a small war'
The head of the delegation of the Russian Federation to the Vienna Negotiations on Military Security and Arms Control said US “maneuvers and bullying” in the Black Sea aim to divide Russia and Europe with a “small war”.
"I think the main goal of the US and the regime in Kiev, which now doesn’t know what else to do, is to divert attention away from the problems inside Ukraine,” Konstantin Gavrilov told Rossiya 24 TV channel. “And for the US, it’s to divide Europe and Russia with a small war.”
He said Moscow won’t succumb to these provocations, stressing that Russia’s leadership and Defense Ministry have the situation under control.
Relations between Moscow and Kiev have been strained since a conflict erupted in Ukraine's eastern Donbass region between Ukrainian government forces and ethnic Russians in 2014. The US, the European Union, and Ukraine claim Russia has a hand in the conflict. Moscow strongly rejects the allegation.
Ukraine PM urges NATO to step up presence
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal on Thursday called on NATO to expand its naval and air operations along Russia’s frontier.
“Ensuring the constant presence of maritime warships of the NATO alliance in the Black Sea would be a very strong signal,” Shmyhal said in an interview with POLITICO.
“In the same way, a very strong signal would be the increase of intelligence and reconnaissance flights across the Russian border, in particular in the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea.”
Russia has repeatedly accused NATO of carrying out provocative activities close to its borders as the US-led military alliance has expressed determination to reinforce the security of member states close to Russia.