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Russia blasts US provocations with warship sailings

By REN QI in Moscow | China Daily | Updated: 2021-11-09 10:21
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United States warships that have sailed into the Black Sea are testing whether Russia is ready to counter them, warned Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu on Sunday.

Commenting on ongoing visits by US warships, including a guided missile destroyer, to the Black Sea, Shoigu called the constant presence of the US Navy in the Black Sea a provocation.

"This is an almost constant attempt to test us, to check how ready we are, how much we have built the entire defense system off the Black Sea coast and the entire south of our nation," Shoigu told state television.

He said the Russian military was well aware that such vessels "have long-range precision weapon systems on board" and were not deployed to Russia's underbelly "for a tourist cruise".

The US Navy's Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Porter entered the Black Sea on Oct 30. The USS Mount Whitney, a Blue Ridge-class amphibious command ship which serves as the flagship of the US Sixth Fleet, joined it last Thursday after making a port call in Istanbul. The US Navy said the two ships are in the Black Sea to "further enhance collaboration between US and NATO forces at sea".

The Black Sea, particularly the area near the Crimean Peninsula, is a sensitive security zone for Moscow. Russian President Vladimir Putin said last week that Russian forces would be able to observe the Mount Whitney "through binoculars or in the crosshairs of defense systems".

Alliance activity

Russia, which severed ties with NATO last month, complained frequently about alliance activity close to its borders, or in what it regards as its post-Soviet sphere of influence. But the show of US military force was warmly received by Ukraine, and its Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter that the country "has been calling for and strongly supports enhanced presence of our US and NATO partners in the region".

Speaking to Russian media, Shoigu said the national military was closely monitoring all such missions and presumed that "at any moment, any provocation is possible", citing a recent incident with a British ship.

Shoigu was referring to the June incursion by the United Kingdom's Royal Navy destroyer HMS Defender into territorial waters of the Crimea Peninsula. The UK considers the peninsula as part of Ukraine and deliberately sailed through Russia-controlled waters to reiterate that message.

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