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At a glance: How close U.S. troops are to Ukraine

Mar. 4, 2014 - 12:38PM   |  
TOPSHOTS-UKRAINE-RUSSIA-POLITICS-CRIMEA
Ukrainian marines look at a Russian ship pulling our of Sevastopol bay on March 4. (Viktor Drachev/AFP via Getty Images)
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The U.S. has condemned the Russian incursion into Ukraine and now the Pentagon has suspended its military-to-military relationship with Russia, including exercises and planning conferences, a Defense Department spokesman said.

The Defense Department is closely monitoring the situation on the ground in Ukraine and is calling for Russian troops to return to their bases in the Crimea, Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement.

“Some media outlets are speculating on possible ship movements in the region,” Kirby said in the statement on Monday. “There has been no change to our military posture in Europe or the Mediterranean; our Navy units continue to conduct routine, previously planned operations and exercises with allies and partners in the region.”

While no U.S. troops are in Ukraine, several hundred personnel are in the region, according to U.S. European Command.

About 200 Marines and sailors are in Romania, where they are spending a yearlong rotation working with troops from the Black Sea, Balkan and Caucasus regions, said Navy Capt. Gregory Hicks, a spokesman for EUCOM.

The Black Sea Rotational Force 14 rotation began in September and includes live-fire exercises, such as small arms and dismount firing and moving, according to a news release from Marine Forces Europe and Africa.

Meanwhile, about 150 airmen and four F-15s from Royal Air Force Lakenheath are deployed to Lithuania to conduct the Baltic Air Policing mission, Hicks said. The mission involves protecting the airspace for Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, according to the 48th Fighter Wing.

Separately, a small team of airmen are on a training rotation to Poland. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel visited the airmen on Jan. 31.

And about 400 service members and civilian employees are working at the Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base in Romania, which became fully operational as a transit hub on Feb. 28, officials said. The base is meant to replace the Transit Center at Manas, which recently ceased passenger flights to Afghanistan.

Right now, the only U.S. Navy ship in the region is the USS Taylor, which is in Turkey for repairs after running aground, Hicks said. The ship is a frigate, a relatively small vessel that specializes in anti-submarine warfare.

“For security reasons we do not discuss future ship movements,” Hicks said in an email Tuesday to Military Times. “The U.S. Navy does, on a normal and routine basis, operate ships in the Black Sea consistent with the Montreux Convention and International Law.”

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