As fighter jets and naval vessels swoop down on the Black Sea, Russia ramps up its war preparations.
Tensions in the Black Sea have risen after Russia conducted military drills involving ten aircraft and ships.
The drills take place at a time when tensions over Ukraine are high, with US officials expressing concerns about a possible Russian attack on its southern neighbor, a claim the Kremlin has dismissed as false.
The Black Sea Fleet of Russia is stationed in Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
Kiev wants Russia to return it.
Russia’s move comes amid rising regional tensions, with the US sharing intelligence with Western allies indicating a Russian troop build-up along the Ukrainian border, raising fears of a full-scale invasion.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance was keeping an eye on what he described as a “large and unusual concentration of Russian forces” near Ukraine’s border on Friday.
“It is critical that Russia be transparent about this military buildup, de-escalates, and lowers tensions,” he added.
Given the US rhetoric, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned that “a provocation” in the area could not be ruled out.
“This hysteria is being artificially whipped up,” he said.
“Those who have brought in their armed forces from across the ocean accuse us of engaging in some kind of unusual military activity on our soil.”
“The United States of America, to be precise.”
It’s neither logical nor courteous.”
Mr. Putin himself warned last week that ignoring Russia’s “red lines” would be a mistake.
“The latest developments go beyond certain boundaries,” he told an enlarged board meeting of the Foreign Ministry. “Strategic bombers fly at a distance of 20 kilometers from our state border, and they carry quite serious weapons, as is known.”
He avoided directly mentioning Ukraine, but added:
“We constantly express our concerns about these actions and discuss red lines, but we recognize that our partners are unusual and, to put it mildly, do not take all of our warnings and discussions about red lines seriously.”
“Our concerns and precautions about NATO’s expansion to the east were completely ignored, despite the fact that the relationships between Russia and our Western partners, including the US, were truly unique and these ties were almost at the level of allied relations.”
“And now, look at where the NATO military infrastructure is: it’s right near our borders, and missile defense systems are nearby,” he explained.
“News from the Brinkwire.”