21:13 GMT26 July 2021
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    Exercise Sea Breeze has been held in Ukraine since 1997. They are naval drills involving an array of NATO member states and their allies in the Black Sea region.

    The American guided missile destroyer USS Ross has entered the Ukrainian port of Odessa to take part in Exercise Sea Breeze 2021, an annual multinational maritime drill.  

    "This is the 21st iteration of the exercise where +30 countries will join together for interoperability training in the Black Sea", according to the official Twitter page of the Sea Breeze military drills.

    The arrival of the USS Ross in Odessa follows Russia's National Defence Management Centre reporting that Russian Navy forces had begun to monitor the USS Ross' movements after the destroyer entered the Black Sea on 26 June.

    The developments come after an incident in the Black Sea on 23 June, when a Russian patrol ship and a Su-24M fighter fired warning shots and dropped bombs along the HMS Defender's path following the UK warship sailing as far as 3 kilometres (2 miles) into Russian waters near the southernmost tip of Sevastopol.

    Britain's Ministry of Defence (MoD) denied that any incident took place and said that its ship was conducting an "innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters in accordance with international law", chalking down the Russian firing nearby to a "gunnery exercise".

    Yet, a BBC journalist who happened to be aboard the British warship appeared to dispute the MoD's story, insisting that he did see multiple Russian warplanes buzzing around the HMS Defender and that he heard gunfire.

    British Royal Navy's Type 45 destroyer HMS Defender arrives at the Black Sea port of Odessa, Ukraine June 18, 2021.
    © REUTERS / SERGEY SMOLENTSEV
    British Royal Navy's Type 45 destroyer HMS Defender arrives at the Black Sea port of Odessa, Ukraine June 18, 2021.

    Shortly afterward, the Russian Defence Ministry appealed to the Pentagon and the command of the UK's Naval forces, urging them to "be guided by reason" and to avoid dangerous actions that might "test" Russia's defences in the wake of the 23 June incident.

    The Sea Breeze military exercises have been held in Ukraine since 1997 in accordance with a Memorandum of Understanding and Military Cooperation between the Pentagon and the Ukrainian Defence Ministry.  

    The 13-day Exercise Sea Breeze 2021, which kicks off on 28 June, involves about 5,000 servicemen and more than 30 ships from the US, Ukraine, the UK, Canada, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Greece, Latvia, and other countries.

    Related:

    Video of Russian Jet Flying Over UK Destroyer HMS Defender in Black Sea Released by MoD
    Moscow Says UK Should Rename HMS Defender to ‘HMS Aggressor’ Following Black Sea Scuffle
    Russian Diplomat Slams UK, US for Trying to Foment Tensions Around Black Sea Incident
    Tags:
    HMS Defender, incident, drills, USS Ross, Odessa, Ukraine, US
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