Kyiv: Ukraine to reinforce its Azov Sea flotilla with American boats
Two Island-class patrol boats given to Ukraine by the US will be rearmed and sent to the Sea of Azov, Verkhovna Rada First Deputy Chairwoman Iryna Herashchenko wrote on Facebook.
“The US has given Ukraine two Island-class boats which will be fitted with weapons. They are ideally suited, among other things, to reinforcing Ukraine’s military presence in the Sea of Azov… They will serve our Navy for another 25-30 years, and will protect and patrol Ukrainian waters, even Ukrainian Crimea, I believe,” she wrote.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko received the boats on September 27. The handover ceremony took place at the US Coast Guard’s Baltimore base. During the ceremony, Poroshenko said that the US remains the leading supporter of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
On September 26 it was announced that the Drummond and Cushing Island-class boats, built in 1988 and now withdrawn from the Coast Guard, would be given to Ukraine. According to Marine Traffic, the Drummond is still in service, although it last left port in 2016.
US Defense Department Spokesman Eric Pahon told TASS that Kyiv had paid $9 million for the boats, which included the upgrading of the boats and their transportation to Ukraine.
“Over the next five months, these boats will be rebuilt in Baltimore. After upgrading them, the US Coast Guard will give comprehensive training to 35 crew members, including training at sea. The US Command will also provide transport boats and will help to get them back into service upon arrival in Ukraine. The US is providing a full support package, including spare parts,” Pahon said.
In mid-May, after the completion of the construction of the automotive part of the Kerch Bridge, Russia relocated ships, including warships of the Caspian Flotilla, to the Sea of Azov. Moscow referred the need to enhance security around the strategic facility.
On May 3, the State Border Service of Ukraine announced that “Russians have started a stringent policy of detaining and inspecting vessels” passing through the Kerch Strait. The State Border Service said that since April 30, Russian special services have been daily detaining vessels for inspection and identification of the crew.
Volodymyr Omelyan, the Minister of the infrastructure, said that Russian border guards have detained almost 100 Ukrainian ships in the Sea of Azov from the end of April to July 2018.
Later, Serhiy Popko, the commander of the Ukrainian Ground Forces, said that the Armed Forces of Ukraine increased the military presence in the Sea of Azov. On September 6, the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine decided to strengthen the military naval presence in the Sea of Azov.