US Missile Cruiser Vella Gulf Enters Black Sea
US guided-missile cruiser Vella Gulf entered the Black Sea on Thursday, "to promote peace and stability in the region", the US Navy announced.
The arrival of Vella Gulf is the latest bid by the United States to reassure NATO allies worried over Russia's support for Ukrainian rebels.
According to a US Navy statement, “Vella Gulf's mission is to improve interoperability and work toward mutual goals, demonstrating the United States' commitment to strengthening the collective security of NATO allies and partners in the region.”
Western officials said earlier this week that Russia has nearly doubled the number of its battalions deployed within a few miles of the border with Ukraine, and could launch an incursion in response to gains of Ukrainian government forces against pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine’s eastern provinces.
“The number of NATO ships in the Black Sea has thus increased to seven,” a Russian Navy official commented. The source also told ITAR-TASS news agency that an Italian frigate and a minesweeper, Turkish and British minesweepers, a Greek corvette, and a French frigate were spotted in the Black Sea on Thursday morning off Russia’s Caucasus.
Russia is also conducting a naval exercise in the Black Sea which involves 20 ships and 20 aircraft under a scenario of destruction of enemy ships in the sea and organization of air defense of naval groups and coastal infrastructure.
Last month, Vella Gulf participated in the at-sea portion of Exercise Breeze 2014 in the Black Sea along with other naval forces from Bulgaria, Italy, Turkey, Greece and Romania.
Prior to that it had also entered the Black Sea in end-May.
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