Russian Troops Hold Drills on Abkhazia’s Black Sea Coast

Black Sea Fleet takes part exercise


Russian Southern Military District (SMD) motorized infantry troops are carrying out drills involving the repelling of simulated enemy airstrikes on the Black Sea coast of Abkhazia, the SMD press service said Tuesday.

   The exercises are taking place on two firing ranges in the partially recognized republic, with over 700 service personnel and some 60 military equipment units taking part.

“The troops are improving tactical company skills in defense, offense and during movements, including performing terrain and route engineer reconnaissance… The troops are also practicing repelling airstrikes and attacks by simulated enemy sabotage and reconnaissance groups on the Black Sea coast,” the press service said.

The drills are focusing on firing position and field command post camouflage, as well as on tactical, reconnaissance, and fire training, according to the statement.

Moscow Denies Bulgaria’s Claims of Violating NATO Airspace by Russian Planes



The Russian Defense Ministry dismissed Sophia’s claims of Russian planes allegedly violating NATO airspace over the Black Sea.

On Sunday, Bulgarian Defense Minister Nikolay Nenchev said that Russian warplanes crossed into the so-called “Bulgarian zone of responsibility” with switched off transponders four times during the previous month. He demanded explanations from Moscow calling the alleged incidents “provocations of Bulgaria and its Air Force.” He added that Sophia was “taking preventive measures.”

“Russian military planes regularly carry out flights over the Black Sea strictly along the routes authorized by international rules  of the use of airspace over the neutral waters,” the ministry’s spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said in a statement.

“Moreover, all flights, including those in June, have been conducted with switched-on transponders,” Konashenkov stressed.

The spokesman added that Russia had not received so far any requests from the Bulgarian side for explanation of alleged violations, contrary to claims by the Bulgarian minister.

US Navy Destroyer Enters Black Sea for US-Ukraine Navy Drills

The guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG 71) crosses the Atlantic Ocean as part of the Nassau Expeditionary Strike Group


The USS Ross, Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, will take part in the Sea Breeze 2016 exercise, according to the US Navy command.

    The USS Ross, an Aegis-carrying guided missile destroyer, entered the Black Sea on Friday for the Sea Breeze 2016 exercise to be carried out by the US and Ukrainian navies, the US Navy command in Europe announced.

“USS Ross enters the Black Sea to take part in Sea Breeze 2016,” US Naval Forces Europe (NAVEUR) command said in its official Twitter feed.

The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer passed through the Bosphorus Strait earlier in the day, nine days after leaving its European home port in Rota, Spain.This will be the fifteenth iteration of the annual Sea Breeze exercise in the Black Sea, which is designed to enhance interoperability and strengthen regional security, according to US Navy spokesman Theron Godbold.

US-Ukrainian ‘Sea Breeze 2016’ Exercises Threaten to Blow Up the Black Sea

USS Donald Cook, left, and Ukrainian Navy flagship, frigate Hetman Sahaydachniy, are moored in the Black Sea port of Odessa, Ukraine, Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2015


Next Monday, US Navy ships will join their Ukrainian counterparts in Black Sea naval drills dubbed Sea Breeze-2016. However, some analysts are concerned that the content of the exercises could lead to devastating consequences for the entire region.

The ‘Black Sea Breeze-2016′ drills are set to start in southern Ukraine on July 18. Speaking to the Ukrainian media, Defense Ministry spokeswoman Oksana Gavrilyuk vaguely explained that the exercises’ will focus on a ‘multinational security operation’ in a ‘crisis region’.

For his part, independent Russian military analyst Sergei Ishchenko is concerned that the operation amounts to a rehearsal for an invasion of Crimea.

In a worrying analysis for Svobodnaya Pressa, a Russian online newspaper, Ishchenko, a retired Navy captain and graduate of the Sevastopol Nakhimov Naval School, warned that despite the exercises’ regularity (this is their 15th year), a closer analysis reveals that they are anything but regular.

Incidentally, ‘Breeze-2016’, a separate set of exercises with a similar name, began earlier this week in the territorial waters of Bulgaria. Involving 25 vessels, two planes, two helicopters and some 1,700 personnel from Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey, as well as Greece and Spain, the exercise also includes the participation of the alliance’s ‘Partnership for Peace’ partners.Those drills are being closely monitored by the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s intelligence ship Liman.

However, as Ishchenko pointed out, the US-Ukrainian exercises beginning on July 18 are an entirely separate set of drills. In this connection, a question arises, according to the analyst: “Why the confusion? Why call two separate military training events involving different participants by the same name, even if they are planned in the same headquarters?”

“The answer,” the analyst suggested, “lies in the second part of the question: their unified command.” Those involved in the planning of the closely timed naval exercises apparently wanted to demonstrate their common overall purpose and common enemy which, naturally, is Russia.

The fact that Sea Breeze and Breeze aren’t just one large exercise may have more to do with political considerations, according to Ischenko.

Last month, prior to the start of either exercise, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov bowed out of a proposed NATO project to create a permanent naval task force in the Black Sea, emphasizing that Bulgaria “doesn’t need a war in the Black Sea,” and adding that “send[ing] warships as a fleet against the Russian ships exceeds the limits of what I can allow.”Effectively, Ishchenko noted, the ‘Breeze-2016’ exercises set to begin next week will see the “hesitant powers return to base, while the likeminded forces from the United States and Ukraine come onto the stage. It has already been announced that their joint maneuvers will last 25 days, in patches, all the way through to October. On what days they will flare up and die down again depends, it can be assumed, on Russia’s reaction.”

If the unprecedented geographical scale of the exercises is anything to go by, the US-Ukrainian drills bode trouble, according to the analyst. “Their spread is much wider than in previous years – stretching to Kherson, Mikolaiv and Odessa – that is, those Ukrainian territories which directly border Russia’s Crimea.”

“The focus of the drills, judging by statements from the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, should also ring alarm bells in Russian ears,” the analyst noted. Their talk of joint operations by a multinational force in a ‘crisis region’ is clearly distinguished from the drills of years past. “In previous years, Breeze was covered by the semantic fig leaves of ‘anti-piracy’, ‘earthquake relief’, and so on. Now, the masks have been thrown off. If one wants to be really brief and precise, an operation of a multinational force in a crisis region is normally referred to as an ‘intervention’.”

The military planners behind the joint US-Ukrainian operation “are not making any particular secret” regarding their plans, Ishchenko warned. “The main role is clearly assigned to combat aircraft. Just take a look the list of Ukrainian military airfields expected to be used in the upcoming exercises: Shkolniy near Odessa (basing Su-27 fighters and military transport aircraft), Kulbakino in Mykolaiv (featuring the 299th Air Tactical Brigade, with Su-25 close air support aircraft), Chernobaevka in Kherson region (home to the 11th Army Aviation Brigade, including Mi-24 and Mi-8 helicopters), plus landing areas on the Tendra Spit near Ochakiv, and on Pervomaiskiy Island…In addition, when necessary, the Odessa International Airport is also expected to be used.”The exercises will reach all the way to the mouth of the Danube River, where amphibious assault training is expected to take place. Furthermore, “as stated in Kiev, Ukrainian and US combat swimmers and divers will engage in demining operations.”

Effectively, Ishchenko suggested, clearing the approaches to the shore is a mandatory component of preparations for amphibious landings. The resources for this already exist, and could include US Navy SEALS, recently reported to have been deployed in Bulgaria, as well as Ukraine’s 2nd Detachment of the 73rd Maritime Special Operations Center in Ochakovo.

The composition of forces also reveals a great deal about the exercises, the analyst explained. “From the US side, it includes five ships and two submarines. The subs’ participation is particularly noteworthy, given that the US only has nuclear submarines in its fleet, and that all subs, even non-nuclear ones, may enter the Black Sea only in accordance with international agreements.”

Essentially, “the US’s multipurpose cruiser subs will only be able to participate in the exercises from the Mediterranean Sea. What tasks can they effectively solve there? Only one: subjecting Crimea or other Russian Black Sea territories with a massed Tomahawk cruise missile strike.” There’s literally nothing else for them to do, according to Ishchenko.

The Ukrainians will use up to eight aircraft and helicopters, plus 50 ground vehicles, and most importantly – nine ships and smaller vessels.In consideration of the derelict condition of much of Ukraine’s Navy, it’s likely, according to the analyst, that the forces used will include the flagship frigate Hetman Sahaidachny, the recently restored tanker Fastov, the search and rescue vessel Donbass, the supply vessel Shostka, the fire boat Borschev and the Novoozernoe tugboat. This list might also include the missile boat Priluki, which was recently restored at the Mikolaiv docks. That ship has only begun mooring trials, and appears to be unprepared to maneuver alongside US cruisers and frigates.

But even that does not amount to nine ships. Accordingly, Ishchenko suggested, the other Ukrainian vessels are likely to include the US patrol boats recently supplied to Kiev. “These are large inflatable rubber boats with powerful motors and machinegun mounts, designed for covert landings of Special Forces groups on an enemy coast.”

Effectively, the analyst warned, “if this reasoning is correct, it becomes clear that the main event of the upcoming US-Ukrainian exercises will be the landing of forces near the mouth of the Danube. Then the question becomes how similar are these places to the Crimean coast. And how well will the upcoming training battles replicate real ones?”

“By and large, the main question can be worded differently: how prepared is the world for nuclear war? Even if it is just a limited one using tactical nuclear weapons in the Black Sea and in the Mediterranean theater? Because given the vast superiority of NATO and Ukraine over our military in terms of conventional arms, there is no other way for such a conflict to end. There is no other ending to any large-scale attack on Crimea.”

Ultimately, “it would be interesting to know whether a hypothetical nuclear exchange has been taken into account in the planning in Washington and Kiev for Sea Breeze-2016,” Ishchenko concluded.

Bulgaria Rejects NATO Fleet in the Black Sea, Romania Hurriedly Backs Off

An anti-submarine rocket blasts off a rocket launcher from the Bulgarian navy frigate Drazki during the BREEZE 2014 military drill in the Black Sea on July 11, 2014


Bulgaria’s prime minister firmly ruled out his country’s participation in the proposed NATO fleet in the Black Sea aimed at countering Russian forces in the area: “I don’t need war,” the politician said after Russia promised a response; meanwhile Romania’s president, one of the initiators, has hurriedly backed off.

“I always say that I want the Black Sea to see sailboats, yachts, large boats with tourists and not become an arena of military action… I do not need a war in the Black Sea,” Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said on Thursday referring to the proposal for the NATO fleet in the Black Sea made by Romanian President Klaus Iohannis while visiting Bulgaria on June 15-16.

“Our country will not become part of the Black Sea fleet being prepared against Russia,” Borissov said as quoted by website.

“To send warships as a fleet against Russian ships exceeds the limit of what I can allow,” Borissov told reporters in Sofia on Thursday, as cited by Bloomberg.

“To deploy destroyers, aircraft carriers near [the resort cities of] Bourgas or Varna during the tourist season is unacceptable.”

Klaus Iohannis has quickly backed off, insisting that “the Black Sea naval initiative regards joint training and exercises and that NATO cannot and does not want to keep a fleet in the Black Sea,” Romanian news agency Agerpres reported on Thursday.

“The initiative I introduced to the Bulgarian President and Prime Minister is an initiative designed for cooperation in the area of joint exercises and joint training of the Romanian, Bulgarian and Turkish naval forces. This is the so-called naval initiative, and it does not comprise all naval forces, just joint exercises and training,” the agency quotes the Romanian leader as saying in response to recent statements by the Bulgarian prime minister.

The Romanian president apparently said that “the initiative should be deployed under the NATO umbrella, because all the three Black Sea countries — Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey — are NATO allies.”

”Where the misunderstanding probably emerged was in relation to the concept of a NATO fleet. Nobody creates a NATO fleet. That would be nonsense. NATO cannot and does not want to keep its own Black Sea fleet,” Agerpres quotes Iohannis as explaining.

‘We will board the ships, we will waive our flags, but only Bulgaria and Romania”, the Bulgarian prime minister said, adding that any other scenarios could lead to a military conflict.

After the USS Porter (DDG-78), armed with assault cruise missiles and an Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System (primary weapon: Standard Missile 3), entered the Black Sea last week, Moscow promised “response measures” to Washington.

“If a decision is made to create a permanent force, of course, it would be destabilizing, because this is not a NATO sea,” Andrey Kelin, head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s European Cooperation Department then said.

“If a decision is made to create a permanent force, of course, it would be destabilizing, because this is not a NATO sea,” he added.Under the Montreux Convention, countries which don’t have a Black Sea coastline cannot keep their warships there for more than 21 days. NATO members Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria are all Black Sea Basin countries.

Earlier reports of the Balkan Insight website however suggest that Bucharest is urging NATO to create a permanent alliance fleet in the Black Sea in a “move aimed to counter Russia’s strong involvement in the region.”

The website said that as early as February Romanian Defense Minister Mihnea Motoc announced that Romania is taking the first steps to negotiate with NATO to set up a regular multinational naval patrol in the Black Sea.

“The possibility of creating such a fleet might be discussed at the next NATO summit in July,” Motoc then said. He added that Romania must be ready by then with a clear plan and proposal.

The outlet also added that the regular flotilla might include ships from NATO countries bordering the Black Sea, namely Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey, but also from Germany, Italy and the United States.

The Bulgarian prime minister was not that optimistic. He said that his country was among the most loyal EU countries and was doing what was expected from the European family. But he added that there was no way that Bulgaria would be attacked by Russia.“You remember how our nuclear reactors from the Belene central left for Turkey. Not a single colleague spoke in my defense when President Putin, in the presence of Erdogan, waived his finger at me, saying that Bulgaria lost everything”, EurActive quotes Borissov as saying.

The website adds that “indeed, under Western pressure, Bulgaria abandoned plans to build a nuclear central with Russian technology, and gave up the South Stream gas pipeline project. Putin made strong statements against Bulgaria, and in January 2015, Borissov warned that his country faced an energy catastrophe.”

The International Court of Arbitration at the International Chamber of Commerce in Geneva ruled in favor of the Russian Atomstroyexport company and ordered to pay €620 million in compensation from Bulgaria to Russia.


Really?? NATO Warships Enter Black Sea to ‘Ensure Peace and Stability in the Region’

War ships of  NATO take part in a military drill on the Black Sea

Three NATO frigates and a US guided missile destroyer have entered the Black Sea in what the US naval command described as part of an ongoing effort to enhance regional stability and a sign of support for NATO member-states, Russian media reported on Friday.

The American guided missile destroyer USS Ross is accompanied by three missile frigates, Francis Almejida (Portugal), Blas de Lezo (Spain) and Winnipeg (Canada).”USS Ross (DDG 71) will enter the Black Sea, Dec. 3, 2015, to promote peace and stability in the region,” the US Navy Sixth Fleet’s press release said.

It also noted that the ship’s mission in the Black Sea would be to provide maritime security and military readiness for US “allies and partners.”

The USS Ross is an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile cruiser, armed with the Aegis cruise missile system, which is capable of carrying up to 56 nuclear-armed Tomahawk missiles. The ship class is also capable of carrying an SH-60 Seahawk multi-mission helicopter, and has a crew of 337 seamen.

On October 20, the USS Ross intercepted a ballistic missile as part of exercises testing elements of the US missile shield in Europe.

Turkish media said that the NATO naval group had arrived at a time when tensions between Turkey and Russia were at their highest.

During a November 30 meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg pledged full support for “Turkey’s right to protect its airspace and borders.”


Russia suspends participation in BLACKSEAFOR drills after Turkey’s downing of Russian jet

Russia’s military attache for defense and attache of the ground forces may also be recalled from Turkey

BLACKSEAFOR multilateral naval drills (archive)

BLACKSEAFOR multilateral naval drills (archive)

© Alexei Pavlishak/ITAR-TASS

MOSCOW, November 27. /TASS/. Russia has suspended its participation in the Black Sea Force (BLACKSEAFOR) multilateral naval drills in response to Turkey’s downing of a Russian Su-24M bomber in Syria, Chairman of the State Duma Committee for Defense, Admiral Vladimir Komoyedov told TASS on Friday.

“Also, a representative of the Russian Navy in charge of coordination between the Black Sea Fleet and the Turkish Navy has been recalled from Turkey,” Komoyedov said. “He has returned home,” he added.

Russia’s military attache for defense and attache of the ground forces may also be recalled from Turkey, the Russian lawmaker said.

“These are our military diplomats who are still staying in Ankara to finally get clear explanations from the Turkish General Staff for the causes and the circumstances of the downing of the Russian bomber by the Turkish Air Force in the sky over Syria,” the Russian lawmaker said.

‘If they don’t get these explanations and the Russian Defense Ministry considers their further stay in Turkey as inexpedient, then a decision will be made to recall these Russian military representatives from Turkey as well,” Komoyedov said.

An F-16 fighter jet from the Turkish Air Force shot down a Russian Su-24M bomber on Tuesday. Ankara claims the Su-24M bomber violated the Turkish air space in the area of the border with Syria.

However, Russia’s Defense Ministry has said the Su-24M plane stayed exclusively over the Syrian territory and “there was no violation of the Turkish air space.”

Russian President Putin has warned that the attack on the bomber will have “serious consequences” for the Russian-Turkish relations. According to Putin, the Turkish Air Force’s attack on the Russian combat plane that took part in the operation against terrorists in Syria and posed no threat to Turkey is a “stab in Russia’s back.”

The crew of the Su-24M bomber managed to eject but one of the pilots was killed by gunfire from the ground. The second pilot was rescued and taken to the Russian air base. The rescue operation involved two Mi-8 helicopters. One of the helicopters came under fire and made a crash landing and a contract soldier was killed. The helicopter’s other personnel were evacuated to a safe place. The Mi-8 helicopter damaged by gunfire was subsequently destroyed by mortar fire from the territory controlled by militants.

Russia’s Defense Ministry has announced about terminating all military contacts with Turkey.

The Black Sea Force was established in 2001 to comprise Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania and Georgia.