‘Provoking conflict’ Russia warns of Black Sea danger zone as NATO tensions soar

George Eustice discusses HMS Defender route

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Yuri Pilipson, director of Moscow’s Ministry Fourth European Department, believes NATO’s training exercises pose a threat to security in the region between Russia and Ukraine. Speaking to Ria Novosti on Thursday, Mr Pilipson said: “Unfortunately, we have to admit that the Black Sea is turning from a region of peace and good-neighborliness into a zone of dangerous military confrontation.

“It is quite obvious that this kind of ‘training’ provokes, rather than prevents, conflict situations.”

The diplomat also told the state-owned news agency Russia will continue to take steps to protect its national security.

“We have repeatedly warned that escalation of military-political conflict directly on our borders carries with it a confrontational charge,” he said.

Between June 28 and July 10, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) conducted its so-called Sea Breeze 2021 exercises.

This saw up to 5,000 sailors, 40 warplanes and 32 vessels sail into the Black Sea.

Joining the NATO navies at sea were sailors from Ukraine.

Less than a week earlier, Russian forces shadowed movements of Britain’s HMS Defender after it entered waters around Crimea on June 23.

While the Ministry of Defence Press Office initially said “no shots were directed at HMS Defender”, Ria Novosti claims shots were fired after the Russians issued “repeated warnings” to the British vessel.

The UK has maintained the Type 45 destroyer’s trip near the Crimean coastline was totally acceptable under the internationally recognised freedom of navigation rules.

The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, called the incident an act of “provocation”.

He added: “Even if we had sunk that ship, it would still be hard to imagine that the world would be on the brink of World War III.

“Those who are doing this know that they can’t get out of such a war victorious. That’s a very important thing.”

The Naval Forces of Ukraine will soon start their week-long Dive-2021 anti-mine exercises in the contested waters.

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The Ukrainian navy will be accompanied by other nation’s vessels, including those from the United States.

According to one local report, Pilipson issued another statement today championing the “progressive expansion” of military cooperation between Moscow and Ankara.

The Russian diplomat said: “We register with satisfaction the progressive expansion of the Russian-Turkish partnership on a wide range of issues of mutual interest.

“Defence cooperation is no exception.

“We appreciate the position of our Turkish partners who are acting in accordance with the national tasks of ensuring defence capability despite overt external pressure.”

Turkey is a member of NATO, having joined the alliance in 1952.

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