Russia Responds To NATO Maneuvers With An Air Defense Exercise

The military is holding an exercise in the annexed Crimea, and jets and helicopters have been relocated. It is Russia’s response to a NATO maneuver in the Black Sea.

The Russian military has launched an air defense exercise on the Crimean peninsula. To this end, around 20 fighter jets and helicopters as well as missile systems have been relocated, the Interfax agency reported, citing the Russian Black Sea Fleet.

With the exercise, Russia is responding to Sea Breeze, an exercise between Ukraine and NATO that began on Monday.

The annual maneuver in the Black Sea is to last two weeks, 5,000 soldiers from 32 countries as well as around 30 warships and 40 aircraft are involved. During arms control talks in Vienna, Russia denounced the “extent and aggressiveness” of the NATO exercise. Sea Breeze does not contribute to security in the region.

Russia accuses Great Britain of military provocation

The situation in the Black Sea has recently been tense. Last week, the British destroyer HMS Defender penetrated three kilometers into Russian waters, according to Russian sources. From a British perspective, however, this was not the case. Since the annexation of Crimea in 2014, Russia has considered the waters around the peninsula as its own sovereign territory. Most states do not recognize the annexation.

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According to Russian information, the Russian military fired warning shots and threw bombs in front of the ship’s bow, only then was the HMS Defender turned off. After the incident, Russia called in the British ambassador to protest the “provocation”.

The incident also caused a stir in the British capital. Pedestrians found documents classified as secret by the Ministry of Defense at a bus stop on Sunday . They show, among other things, that the British military made a conscious decision in favor of the route through the area claimed by Russia and against an alternative route. It wanted to make it clear that it does not recognize Russia’s territorial claims.

OSCE fears escalation of the Ukraine conflict

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has expressed concern about the tensions. She is now calling for confidence-building measures: All sides should increase the transparency of their military activities, said Secretary General Helga Schmid. “Any incident can get out of hand.”

Swedish Foreign Minister and current OSCE Chairman Ann Linde described the tensions as part of “worrying developments” in the Ukraine conflict . In the past few months, the ceasefire on the front line with the separatist areas in the east of the country has been violated with increasing frequency.

The rhetoric has also become more aggressive, and Russia has also taken unusual military actions. In the spring, Russia temporarily stationed tens of thousands of soldiers and heavy military equipment on the border with Ukraine , and the country feared it was preparing for a possible offensive.

According to Russian sources, an incident occurred between the Russian armed forces and the British navy in the Black Sea. According to the Defense Ministry in Moscow, a Russian Coast Guard ship and a Su-24 fighter plane fired warning shots in the direction of a British destroyer and dropped bombs. The HMS Defender had traveled three kilometers into Russian territorial waters not far from the Crimean peninsula , the state agency Tass reported, citing the ministry.

The British ship had “received an advance warning that weapons will be used if the state borders of the Russian Federation are violated,” it said. The crew did not react to this at first. After the joint shelling by the Russian Black Sea Fleet and the border guards of the domestic secret service FSB, the ship turned off. There were reportedly no injuries.

The incident was denied by the British. “No warning shots have been fired on the HMS Defender,” said the Ministry of Defense in London on Twitter. Rather, it is assumed that the Russian side held a weapons exercise and that there was an advance warning about the activities for the maritime community. The British ship is said to be sailing peacefully in Ukrainian territorial waters, in accordance with international law.

After the alleged incident at Cape Fiolent in the southwest of the Crimean peninsula, which was annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014 , the British military attaché was summoned to the Russian Ministry of Defense, it was said in Moscow.

There are repeated incidents at sea and in the air because Russia sees its air and sea borders violated. Internationally, the annexed Crimea is not recognized as part of Russia, which is why the government in Kiev sees it as Ukrainian territory.

Maneuver with 32 countries begins

Immediately before the Defender incident, the Russian Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov criticized the movement of NATO ships in the Black Sea as a clear provocation. “This creates the conditions for incidents that do not help to ease tensions at the military level,” he said, accusing the British destroyer Dragon of violating Russian territorial waters near the Crimea last October.

The deputy chief of the defense committee in the Russian parliament, Yuri Schwytkin, said all attempts of this kind to violate the borders of Russia would be vigorously repulsed. The Black Sea Fleet and the FSB, the domestic secret service responsible for border protection, acted in accordance with international rules. Everything had been done to prevent aggression. With the action against the British ship, a worse development of the scenario had been prevented.

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It was suspected that the British warship wanted to take part in an international military exercise under US leadership. Russia had previously urged the United States and its allies not to hold this maneuver in the Black Sea. “The extent and the obviously aggressive nature of the military exercises in no way correspond to the actual security needs in the Black Sea region,” said the Russian embassy in the USA on Twitter. This increases the risk of “unintentional incidents”. Every problem can be solved by the neighboring states themselves, without “outside help” being imposed.

The two-week maneuver Sea Breeze (sea breeze) in the Black Sea is to begin this Monday, according to US information. With 32 participating countries from six continents, 5,000 soldiers, 32 ships, 40 aircraft as well as 18 special operations and diving teams, it is the largest such exercise to date. The Ukraine is the venue for the maneuver. These annual exercises have been around since 1997.

This time the maneuver is being held against the backdrop of renewed tensions between Moscow and the West. In the spring, Russian and Ukrainian troop marches along the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine raised concerns that the conflict between Russia and Ukraine could escalate again. For almost seven years, parts of the eastern Ukrainian areas of Donetsk and Luhansk along the Russian border have been controlled by separatists loyal to Moscow, supported by Russia.

In Great Britain, according to a media report, confidential documents from the Department of Defense were found at a bus stop. Among other things, it was about the incident off Crimea between a British warship and Russia last week, but also about plans for a possible British military presence in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of NATO troops, reported the BBC. A passerby found the almost 50 pages on Tuesday morning in a soaked heap behind a bus stop in Kent in the south-east of England. According to the broadcaster, the documents included emails and presentations.

The Ministry of Defense said it had been informed of the find: “The Ministry takes information security very seriously and has opened an investigation.” A worried employee reported the loss of the papers.

Details of the incident involving a British warship off the Crimea

The documents indicate that the British government expected Russia to react aggressively if the British warship HMS Defender passed off Crimea. An alternative route had been considered, on which the ship would not have passed through the disputed waters. According to the records, this would have avoided a confrontation but risked being used by Russia as evidence that “the UK is afraid / is running away”. Had the ship chosen the alternative route, Russia could have claimed that the United Kingdom was late in accepting Moscow’s claim to the territorial waters of Crimea.

Russia annexed the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 and regards areas around the coast there as Russian waters. Western countries, however, continue to see Crimea as part of Ukraine and reject Russia’s claim to the waters. According to Russian information, the British warship HMS Defender penetrated up to three kilometers into Russian waters last Wednesday . It only stopped after warning shots and bombs were dropped. Great Britain has rejected the representation and in particular denied warning shots and bombing operations.

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According to the BBC report, the documents found at the bus stop on the withdrawal of NATO from Afghanistan deal with the question of whether British special forces will remain in Afghanistan after the withdrawal has ended. Due to the sensitivity of the document, the BBC has stated that it has decided not to report any details from it that could endanger the security of British and other personnel in Afghanistan.

It is not the first time in the UK that sensitive government documents have inadvertently surfaced in public. Sometimes laptops disappeared, then confidential documents were found on a train. The head of office of the former prime minister David Cameron was also discovered throwing sensitive papers into a garbage can in a park.

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