Blackseafor warships leave Bulgaria to conduct next stage of drills
MOSCOW, April 20 (RIA Novosti) - The warships of the Black Sea Naval group left the Bulgarian port of Varna on Tuesday to conduct the next stage of exercises, a Black Sea Fleet commander said.
The first stage of the drills, conducted in the southwestern region of the Black Sea, involved the monitoring of civilian aircraft, search and rescue operations, and replenishment and refueling at sea.
After leaving Varna, the warships held exercises escorting a Bulgarian minesweeper. The main task was to rescue a vessel in distress and coordinate efforts with the international crew, the Blackseafor commander said.
In the next stages, the Blackseafor warships will practice tactical maneuvers, conduct combat operations against surface ships, hold exercises in air defense and communications, assistance to ships in distress, and ship inspection.
"We are responsible for the stability and security in the Black Sea," Bulgarian Navy Rear Admiral Georgi Motyev told journalists at a press conference on a Bulgarian frigate.
While in port, local residents were allowed to visit the warships. Some 500 people came onboard the Russian vessel, which was a sort of record among other international warships.
Russia is represented by the Caesar Kunikov Ropucha-I class large landing ship from Russia's Black Sea Fleet. The vessel was involved in the five-day war between Russia and Georgia over the former Georgian republic of South Ossetia in August 2008, which ended diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Blackseafor was formally established in 2001 on Turkey's initiative and comprises Turkey, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Romania, Georgia and Russia. It conducts search and rescue operations and environmental monitoring, and organizes goodwill visits to Black Sea countries.
This year's drills are being conducted under the command of a Bulgarian admiral.
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