This year Ukraine and the United States along with 15 other countries are expected to take part in the exercise to be held until July 26. Fifteen Ukrainian ships, four aircraft, ten helicopters and 500 service personnel will take part in the military exercises.
Ukraine's parliament, the Supreme Rada, approved NATO participation in the exercises in April. Over 1,000 NATO troops, 15 ships, two submarines, and eight aircraft are expected to take part.
In May-June several Ukrainian left-wing politicians announced that they would organize mass protests and disrupt the drills. Last Thursday, some 20 opposition activists set up an encampment in western Crimea, intending to picket the exercise.
Two years ago, the Sea Breeze 2006 exercise in the Crimea was obstructed by protests, forcing the United States to redeploy the Advantage cargo ship to another location.
Ukraine's pro-Western leadership has been pursuing NATO membership since 2004, when President Viktor Yushchenko came to power. Ukraine failed to secure a place in the NATO Membership Action Plan, a key step toward joining the alliance, at a NATO summit in April, but was told the decision would be reviewed in December.
A poll conducted in April by the FOM-Ukraina pollster showed a majority of Ukrainians oppose NATO membership.