MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Russian military will closely monitor upcoming naval drills co-hosted by Ukraine and the United States and react if necessary to protect its own national security, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Wednesday.
The annual Sea Breeze drills, which are focused on the Black Sea area, will involve personnel from a number of NATO countries and are set to take place from June 28 to July 10, the ministry announced in a statement, according to Reuters.
Moscow stated the drills went well beyond what it called Ukraine’s own Black Sea zone.
“The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation will closely monitor the preparations and the Ukrainian-American ‘Sea Breeze’ exercises themselves...and if necessary respond appropriately to the situation in the interests of ensuring Russia’s military security,” the ministry added.
Russia has announced that it will revamp and upgrade its military presence along its European borders in response to a reported buildup by the US-led NATO bloc, as well as stepping up the presence of both its navy and warplanes.
Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said on Monday that more than a dozen new units would be formed in the Western Military District, which covers much of the European portion of Russia, following increased activity in the region.
“The actions of our Western colleagues destroy the security system in the world and force us to take adequate countermeasures,” he announced in a statement released by officials, adding that “we are constantly improving the combat composition of our troops. By the end of the year, about 20 formations and military units will be set up”.
Shoigu noted that the move would be “synchronized with the supply of modern weapons and military equipment” and that 2,000 new pieces of hardware would be deployed throughout 2021. This, he argued, was a necessary response to the presence of NATO troops, vessels and cruise missiles in the region.
In April, tensions rose between Russia and the West after tens of thousands of troops were stationed along the border with Ukraine, prompting some in Kiev to warn that the Kremlin could be poised to order an invasion of the Donbass. However, Shoigu soon revealed that the movements were part of exercises, and that the units would be returned to their regular bases.
“The goals of the sudden inspection have been fully achieved,” he said at the time, adding, “The troops demonstrated their ability to ensure reliable defense of the country.”