Russia warns NATO against expanding presence in Black Sea

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Moscow. Russia has warned the US-led NATO alliance over a recent decision to beef up military presence in the Black Sea, saying such a move would further increase tensions in the volatile region.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko said on Friday that the decision by the Western military alliance to strengthen its position in the sea “is not a surprise” for Moscow.

“We are talking about the strengthening of military and maritime forces of NATO member states, first and foremost, Romania and Bulgaria, plus non-coastal states entering the Black Sea more often,” he said.

“It is our understanding that this activity aggravates the situation in the sphere of security,” Grushko added.

The Russian diplomat made the remarks in response to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who said on Thursday that the alliance was considering an expansion of its presence in the region in an effort to support Ukraine. He also said that the military alliance is prepared to carry out war games in the region in a few days.

“NATO allies have of course clearly stated that Russia’s aggressive actions against Ukraine are unacceptable,” said the NATO chief. “We are looking into whether we can increase our presence in the Black Sea and in the near future, in a few days, we’ll have NATO ships in the Black Sea, participating in an exercise.”

“So we have significantly increased our presence at sea but also in the air and on land in the Black Sea region,” Stoltenberg added.

Stoltenberg further said he would discuss “what steps NATO should take to adapt to a world with more Russian missiles” as he prepared to hold a meeting with European defense ministers.

Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized his ministers last month to start working on a new land-based cruise missile and a new land-based hyper-sonic missile before 2021 after the US suspended obligations under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF)

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