2 US warships to arrive in Black Sea amid Ukraine-Russia tensions | Eurasia Diary - ednews.net

12 May, Wednesday

2 US warships to arrive in Black Sea amid Ukraine-Russia tensions

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The United States notified Turkey two weeks ago that it planned to send two warships through the Turkish Straits toward the Black Sea in line with the Montreux Convention, Turkish diplomatic sources shared Friday, adding that the vessels will remain in the Black Sea until May 4.
The move comes at a time that Russia has bulked up its military presence on Ukraine's eastern border.
"A notice was sent to us 15 days ago via diplomatic channels that two U.S. warships would pass to the Black Sea in line with the Montreux Convention. The ships will remain in the Black Sea until May 4," Foreign Ministry sources said, adding that the ships are expected to arrive on April 14 and April 15, separately.
The announcement triggered an immediate reaction from Moscow, which expressed concern over the increased activity in the Black Sea, as IFAX reported Friday.
"Any such movements must be in line with the Montreux Convention," Russia expressed.
The 1936 Montreux accord gives Turkey control over the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits. It also limits access of naval warships and governs foreign cargo ships.
The U.S. State Department said on April 5 that it has asked Moscow to explain "provocations" on the border with Ukraine amid the Russian military build-up.
State Department Spokesperson Ned Price told a news briefing that the United States would be concerned by any effort by Moscow to intimidate Ukraine whether it occurred within Russian territory or within Ukraine.
Earlier on the same day, Russia said it was in high-level contact with the United States about tensions over Ukraine and dismissed fears of Russian military buildup even as it vowed to respond to new Ukrainian sanctions.
Meanwhile, U.S. President Joe Biden used a first phone call with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Friday to offer "unwavering" support after Western nations and NATO voiced concern over Russian troop movements near Ukraine.
Last week, the U.S. also warned Russia against "intimidating" Ukraine, with both Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken calling their Ukrainian counterparts to stress support. The Pentagon said this week U.S. forces in Europe had raised their alert status following the "recent escalations of Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine."
There has been a recent spike in violence in Ukraine's eastern Donbass region where Kyiv's troops have battled Russian-backed separatist forces in a conflict it estimates has killed 14,000 people since 2014.
"We are in contact with the Americans, this is happening at a high level," Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was previously quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.
He said Moscow had rejected as "unfounded" concerns raised by Washington over the situation. He accused Ukraine of failing to implement agreements over the region.
"If our American colleagues were concerned about this, it would really help stabilize the situation," he was quoted as saying.
Ukraine, Western countries and NATO accuse Russia of sending troops and heavy weapons to prop up proxies in Donbass.
Russia has rejected the claims, arguing that it can deploy its troops wherever it deems necessary on its territory and emphasizing that they don't threaten anyone. It has accused Ukrainian authorities of trying to stoke up tensions in the east for domestic policy purposes.
In Thursday's call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin "drew attention to the provocative actions of Kyiv, which has deliberately sought to exacerbate tensions along the line of control,” the Kremlin said in its readout of the call.
Merkel’s office said she discussed the increased Russian military presence in the area near eastern Ukraine with Putin, and "called for the removal of these troop reinforcements in order to achieve a de-escalation of the situation.”
Ukraine over the weekend targeted several Russian companies with sanctions as part of what it said was a clamp-down on smuggling.
On April 5, the Kremlin said Moscow would respond to those sanctions. It also said it was up to Moscow to move its military around in Russia as it saw fit and that those movements posed no threat to Kyiv.
"I want to be with our soldiers in the tough times in Donbas,” Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy tweeted as he headed to the conflict area on April 8, Thursday.
Ukraine and many Western nations have accused Russia of sending troops and weapons to eastern Ukraine to support the rebels – accusations the Kremlin has denied.

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