Ukraine and NATO do not intend to hold joint exercises in the Sea of Azov, said Vadym Prystaiko, head of Ukraine’s NATO representation.
“Joint exercises or operations in the Sea of Azov will definitely be perceived by Russia as provocation. The Alliance does not plan to provoke Russia… We do not yet have plans to conduct exercises in the Sea of Azov with NATO,” he told Interfax-Ukraine in an interview.
He also pointed out that bringing military ships into the Sea of Azov is currently problematic.
“Neither the Alliance nor Ukraine is interested in a further escalation of the conflict. And at present, we care more about how to protect our coast than how to strengthen our capabilities. In particular, we are building a small Naval base in the Sea of Azov, and are reinforcing the missile and artillery weapons. We recently conducted our own missile drills,” the Ukrainian ambassador explained.
In October, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told the French media in an interview that “Ukraine wants to have NATO drills in the Sea of Azov” and that NATO was supposedly actively “indulging” Ukraine in this regard.
In summer 2018, Ukraine held the Sea Breeze joint military exercise with the US and a number of other NATO states in the north-western portion of the Black Sea. The drill, which focused on “national maritime security operations in a crisis region”, featured representatives of 19 countries and a total of more than 2,000 troops. 30 ships and boats took part in the maneuvers, including a Turkish submarine and the USS Mount Whitney, flagship of the US’s Sixth Fleet. 20 aircraft also participated in the exercises.
The US-Ukraine Sea Breeze drills have been held every summer since 1997, and are intended to improve the combat readiness of the Ukrainian Navy on a bilateral basis, although they are also open to other countries.