More than 30 Russian ships start drills near Crimea

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MOSCOW, Feb 12 (Reuters) – More than 30 ships from the Russian Black Sea fleet have started training exercises near the Crimea peninsula as part of wider navy drills, RIA news agency reported on Saturday citing the fleet, as Western nations warned that a war in Ukraine could ignite at any moment.

Russia’s military moves are being closely scrutinised as its massing of troops near Ukraine and a volley of hawkish rhetoric have rattled the West and sparked concern it plans to invade Ukraine. Moscow denies any plan to invade, saying it is maintaining its own security against aggression by NATO allies.

RIA said that more than 30 Russian ships have left the ports of Sevastopol and Novorossiisk “in accordance to the plans of the drills” near Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

RIA said the aim of the drills was the defence of the coast of Crimea, the outposts of the Black Sea fleet as well as the economy sector and naval communications.

Russia announced last month its navy would stage a sweeping set of exercises involving all its fleets this month and next, from the Pacific to the Atlantic, the latest show of strength in a surge of military activity during the standoff with the West.

(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin Editing by Frances Kerry)

Photo – The Ukrianian flag flies left of Russian Navy Black Sea Fleet’s Grisha V type corvette ‘Suzdalets’ . EPA/MAXIM SHIPENKOV

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