00:44 GMT01 December 2020
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    The Russian Navy has begun large scale combat readiness drills in and around Crimea in response to the US-Ukrainian Sea Breeze 2017 exercises. Commenting on the Sea Breeze drills, military observer Alexander Khrolenko noted that Moscow could match the US's audacity only if the Russian Navy begun joint drills with Mexico off the coast of California.

    This week, the Russian Black Sea Fleet put its naval and coastal defense units on high alert, and started combat readiness exercises in Crimea and the Black Sea region. Nearly two dozen ships have been sent to sea; they've received support from the coast from about one hundred pieces of military and special equipment from the military's coastal defense units.

    The Russian Black Sea Fleet's impromptu drills are a direct response to Sea Breeze 2017, the large-scale 17 country Black Sea naval drills cohosted by the United States and Ukraine involving air, land, naval and amphibious forces which kicked off in the Ukrainian port city of Odessa. Those drills, which began Monday, feature over 30 warships, including the USS Hue City Ticonderoga-class missile cruiser and the USS Carney Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, over two dozen military aircraft, including the P-8 Poseidon ASW plane, and other units. A Turkish frigate and a Romanian corvette are also involved.

    The US-Ukrainian drills, conducted in accordance with NATO standards and expected to run until July 23, involve drilling in maritime and air operations, anti-ship and anti-aircraft defense, amphibious landings, and use of saboteurs.

    USS Hue City (file)
    USS Hue City (file)

    Commenting on the tense military situation which has developed in the region thanks to the drills, RIA Novosti military observer Alexander Khrolenko wrote that it's no secret to anyone that "this demonstration of military power by the US and its allies is aimed at Russia (and specifically, at Crimea)."

    "The audacity of this action could be compared only to some fantastical scenario where Russia and Mexico were to carry out joint amphibious landing drills in the Gulf of California with the participation of the Cuban, Venezuelan and Argentinian navies," Khrolenko added.

    It's also highly noteworthy, the observer wrote, that the Russian Black Sea Fleet's drilling is designed to mirror the potential threat posed by the Sea Breeze maneuvers.

    In southern Crimea, for example, the Bastion and Bal coastal defense missile systems, and Bereg self-propelled artillery, have already drilled the simulated launch of their missiles at ships belonging to the prospective enemy, as well as enemy units in simulated amphibious landing operations.

    The Black Sea Fleet's missile boats and coastal defense vessels, meanwhile, have practiced targeted strikes against enemy surface ships and air targets. 

    "Even the Admiral Grigorovich frigate, which returned to Sevastopol just yesterday after four months on combat duty in the Mediterranean Sea, immediately joined the naval inspection for combat readiness," Khrolenko recalled.

    The Russian Navy's frigate Admiral Grigorovich sails in the Bosphorus on its way to the Mediterranean Sea, in Istanbul, Turkey April 7, 2017
    © REUTERS / Yoruk Isik
    The Russian Navy's frigate Admiral Grigorovich sails in the Bosphorus on its way to the Mediterranean Sea, in Istanbul, Turkey April 7, 2017

    "It's likely that the Utyos coastal defense system, capable of destroying targets at distances of about 450 km, will once again demonstrate its capabilities," the analyst added. "A battalion's worth of the system is located in the Crimean Mountains, at altitudes between 500-600 m above sea level."

    "In Crimea, proactive anti-sabotage measures have also been worked out. Earlier, Black Sea Fleet military counterintelligence had detained seven Ukrainian saboteurs with weapons, explosives and schematics of important facilities prepared by the Ukrainian Defense Ministry's main intelligence department." Two of them have already pleaded guilty in a pretrial deal with prosecutors.

    In other words, Khrolenko wrote, "the overt and covert participants of the US-Ukrainian 'free games' such as Sea Breeze 2017 should not have any illusions about the military capabilities of the multi-branch group of forces in the Crimean peninsula, not to mention the capabilities of the Southern Military District and the strength of the will of the Russian state."

    The Utyos stationary coastal missile system launches a cruise missile during a Black Sea Fleet tactical drill in Crimea
    © Sputnik / Vasiliy Batanov
    The Utyos stationary coastal missile system launches a cruise missile during a Black Sea Fleet tactical drill in Crimea


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