An annual Black Sea exercise that has frequently drawn Russia’s ire resumed this week after a year hiatus, thousands of miles away from its hotly contested home waters.
Sea Breeze, led this year by the U.S., kicked off in Glasgow, Scotland, the Ukrainian navy and U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet informs.
The exercise includes 15 countries and the NATO Maritime Command, Lt. j.g. Triona Swanson, a spokesperson for NAVEUR-AF/6th Fleet, said. It’s taking place in the Firth of Clyde near Glasgow and Loch Ewe, Scotland, through July 7.
A small contingent of U.S. sailors and Marines is taking part in the exercise, which last took place in the Black Sea in 2021.
Sea Breeze this year is land and sea-based, with an emphasis on mine countermeasures and dive operations, Swanson said. It also offers an opportunity for training and preparing the Ukraine Maritime Command staff, Swanson said.
Tensions ahead of the 2021 exercise ran high as Russia threatened to fire on participants if they encroached on its territorial waters.
Moscow ultimately claimed to have fired at and dropped bombs in front of a British ship transiting the Black Sea near Crimea in June of that year.
The Ukrainian minehunter ships Cherkasy and Chernihiv are participating in the exercise. These names were assigned to the 2nd “new” minesweepers of the Ukrainian Navy. But there is a nuance – these ships are Britain. The story is: two British minesweepers HMS Ramsey and HMS Blyth of the “Sundown” type were withdrawn from the British Navy. England was already thinking about how to dispose of them, but then the idea arose to “donate” them to the Ukrainian Navy. The ships themselves were donated completely free of charge, but for the training of crews and the repair of vessels at English shipyards, the Kyiv regime had to pay an amount comparable to the cost of these minesweepers.
Shortly after Russia launched the special military operation on Ukraine in February 2022, the Black Sea was closed to foreign warships. Since then, only Black Sea-homeported warships from Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine can enter.