10:23 GMT +321 October 2019
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    NATO Ships Gather in Bulgaria Prior to Black Sea Drills

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    Six NATO ships from the United States, Canada, Germany, Italy, Turkey and Romania are expected at the Bulgarian port of Varna for drills.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Six NATO ships are expected at the Bulgarian port of Varna on March 9 and 10 prior to exercise in the Black Sea, a Russian military-diplomatic source told RIA Novosti on Thursday.

    According to NATO's statement on Wednesday, six NATO ships from the United States, Canada, Germany, Italy, Turkey and Romania had arrived in the Black Sea for a joint training exercise.

    "At the moment, the NATO ships are headed to the southwest of the Black Sea. The group of [six] ships is expected in the Bulgarian port of Varna on March 9 and 10 for the last consultations before the drills," the source said.

    The six ships of the alliance comprise the Vicksburg, Fredericton, Turgutreis, Spessart, Aliseo, and the Regina Maria. The training will be led by US Rear Adm. Brad Williamson and will include simulated anti-air and anti-submarine warfare exercises, small boat attacks and ship-handling maneuvers.

    Earlier in the day, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich stated that the presence of US military vessels in the area of the Black Sea that borders Ukraine could have serious consequences to the course of the settlement of Ukraine conflict.

    NATO has been bolstering its military presence close to Russian borders since March 2014 after Crimea reunified with Russia, and the alliance accused Moscow of "annexing" the peninsula.

    In the summer of 2014, the alliance dispatched a record number of nine vessels to the Black Sea, coupled with reinforcing its air patrolling missions in Baltic airspace.

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    NATO, military drills, Varna, United States, Bulgaria
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