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NATO Black Sea exercise kicks off as Moscow puts its regional forces on alert

The U.S. warship Porter entered the Black Sea on Sunday to take part in an annual NATO exercise, days after Russia placed its Black Sea forces on alert.

Sea Breeze 2020 is cohosted by the United States and Ukraine and involves more than 2,000 personnel from Bulgaria, Georgia, Norway, Romania, Spain and Turkey.

It will run through July 26 and focus on warfare areas such as air defense, anti-sub warfare, damage control and search and rescue, according to a Navy release.

A Navy P-8A Poseidon sub hunter aircraft is also participating.

The exercise will take place exclusively at sea to help mitigate COVID-19, according to the release.

Porter’s arrival comes after Russia’s Black Sea Fleet and units elsewhere conducted a “snap combat readiness check,” Russia’s state-run news agency TASS reported Friday.

For Moscow’s Black Sea-based forces, that check involved warships, combat aircraft and more than 3,000 personnel, according to TASS.

“During the exercise, the ships’ crew made their urgent preparation for a battle and practiced withdrawing the main forces from a notional enemy’s strike,” the fleet’s press office told TASS.

The U.S. warship Porter, shown here in an undated photo, steamed into the Black Sea Sunday, July 19, 2020. (Navy)
The U.S. warship Porter, shown here in an undated photo, steamed into the Black Sea Sunday, July 19, 2020. (Navy)

This will be the third trip into the Black Sea this year for Porter, which is based in Rota, Spain, according to the Navy.

Sea Breeze 2020 comes as conflict between Ukrainian troops and Russia-backed separatists continues in the country’s east in a war that has killed more than 14,000 people, according to the Associated Press.

Russian jets have also intercepted U.S. aircraft over the Black Sea and across the region in recent years.

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