US warship to enter Black Sea to support Operation Atlantic Resolve
Iran Press TV
Sun Jun 21, 2015 5:0PM
US Navy warship, USS Laboon, is to enter the Black Sea as part of its support mission for the so-called Operation Atlantic Resolve drills, which are intended to counter the alleged Russian threat amid the Ukraine crisis.
The Arleigh-Burke class destroyer is expected in Black Sea waters on Sunday amid growing tensions in eastern Ukraine between Western-backed government troops and independence seeking pro-Russia forces despite a truce deal signed between the warring sides in February.
"Building capability and interoperability within the NATO alliance and with our partners is critical to ensuring a safe and prosperous Europe. We remain committed to operating in the Black Sea, and I look forward to hearing positive reports of USS Laboon's professional and meaningful interactions while there," said US Sixth Fleet Commander Vice Adm. James Foggo III.
The American warship is equipped with two Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense Systems capable of deploying long-range Tomahawk subsonic cruise missiles.
The development comes as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has expanded its military presence and war games close to Russia's land and sea borders since the eruption of the year-long Ukrainian conflict in southeast of the country.
This is while Moscow insists that it regards NATO's persisting military activities near its western borders as a security threat. Moreover, Russia's envoy to NATO recently made clear that Moscow would boost its defense capabilities in the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea in a bid to offset the continued US-led military buildup by the Western alliance.
The Ukrainian conflict broke out in March 2014 following a referendum in Crimea, in which its people voted overwhelmingly for reunification with Russia.
The situation, however, deteriorated into a major armed conflict after Kiev dispatched troops to the eastern Ukrainian regions of Lugansk and Donetsk in April 2014 in an attempt to suppress pro-Russia forces there.
The persisting conflict has so far claimed the lives of at least 6,500 people and displaced nearly 1.5 million citizens, according the United Nations figures.
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