MOSCOW, March 12 (RIA Novosti) – A US navy destroyer began joint exercises Wednesday with Romanian and Bulgarian warships in the Black Sea, about 130 miles from Crimea, the Reuters news agency reported.
The mission was cited by the White House last week as a sign of the United States’ commitment to the region amid ongoing turmoil in Ukraine – which also borders the Black Sea – that threatens to split the country apart.
The exercises, taking place in Romanian territorial waters, were scheduled to begin Tuesday but were delayed due to adverse weather.
The USS Truxtun, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, was dispatched last week from its duties as an escort in the carrier group led by the USS George H.W. Bush, part of the US 6th Fleet headquartered in Italy.
Romania’s coast is as close as 130 miles (220 kilometers) to Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula, where troops lacking official insignia but carrying weapons and wearing uniforms of the Russian military have seized key infrastructure and military bases in recent weeks.
The Crimean government declared independence Tuesday ahead of a referendum scheduled for Sunday on the question of annexation by Russia.