The navies of Ukraine, the US, and Romania will hold joint military exercises in the Black Sea and the Danube Delta, according to several reports.
The ‘Sea Breeze 23.3’ naval drills will occur from September 11 to 15, with military personnel from Bulgaria, France, Great Britain, and Turkey participating.
The drills come after Russian strikes on Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea near Odessa and Danube, allegedly producing unmanned sea kamikaze drones used to strike Russian warships off the Black Sea since last year.
Early this month, Russia conducted a series of attacks by firing long-range missiles that hit the drone manufacturing units, fuel and ordnance depots, and anti-Moscow Russian Volunteer Corps that it describes as “terrorist sabotage groups” allied to Ukraine.
On September 9 (Saturday), the Russian Ministry of Defense (RuMoD) announced the thwarting of another attempt by speedboat-bound Ukrainian naval special forces and three sea drones to attack Russian facilities deeper in the Black Sea and the Crimean Bridge.
This also comes amid the Black Sea Grain Initiative that is attempted to be revived by the United Nations (UN) and Turkey after Russia walked out of the pact on July 17 in retaliation to the sea drone attacks on its warships.
Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, and the UN are signatories to the pact, which allows for unimpeded Russian and Ukrainian grain exports from the Black Sea ports. However, Moscow had been pointing to its inability to carry out grain trade owing to the sanctions that prevented it from accessing insurance for its grain cargo, vessels, and the debarment from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) network. Turkey has been urging the G-20 and the West to heed to this Russian demand.
Sea Breeze 23.3 Naval Drills
According to a report in Euromaidan Press, Romania’s Vice Admiral Ioan Georgescu, head of its Naval Component Command, will supervise the drills. The maneuvers will “develop operational and tactical interoperability among the participating nations, particularly in countering explosive hazards such as maritime mines to ensure freedom of navigation.”
Romanian dredger Sublocotenent Alexandru Axente, the high-speed diving ship Venus, the armored boat Posada, three amphibious armored personnel carriers, assault boats, and other naval vessels will participate. It will also send experts specializing in explosive ordnance disposal and marine infantry.
On its part, the US will send maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft Poseidon, diver-engineers with boats and specialized equipment. “Other participating countries will contribute divers, specialists in explosive ordnance disposal, and senior officers,” the report added.
Interestingly, Euromaidan Press, a staunchly Russia-critical outlet, itself said the drills are in response to the Russian drone attacks on Ukrainian ports, proving previous EurAsian Times analyses that the war on the Black Sea is showing signs of escalating into a semi-theatre of its own.
“The exercises will occur shortly after Russian intense drone attacks on Ukraine’s seaports and Russian withdrawal from the grain deal. Withdrawing from the deal, Russia aims to blackmail the world by hunger to have sanctions lifted. Russian forces have consistently targeted Ukrainian ports on the Danube and blocked navigation in the Black Sea.”
A TASS report claimed that the decision to hold the drills was taken after naval commanders from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) “took place Constanta.” “(It) was attended by Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, the UK, the US, Ukraine and France representatives.” It did not, however, specify when the meeting took place.
— ДражаМ (@DrazaM33) September 6, 2023
Russia Hits Back
Meanwhile, the RuMoD on September 9 (Saturday) claimed Ukrainian sea kamikaze drones attempted to strike the Crimean Bridge, which its navy thwarted. “Ships of the Black Sea Fleet during combat duty in the southern part of the Kerch Strait have detected and destroyed three Ukrainian unmanned semi-submersible boats attempting to attack the Crimean bridge,” the RuMoD said on its Telegram channel.
It also claimed its “Naval Aviation Aircraft” destroyed “50 Ukrainian servicemen” belonging to its “special operations forces” while they were on “four high-speed boats…in the waters of the Black Sea west of the Crimean peninsula.”
This comes after three Ukrainian attempts to take the Zmeiny island and a Russian oil rig in the Black Sea on August 31, which destroyed six Ukrainian speed boats carrying special operations troops and killed over 50 soldiers. Ukraine made a similar attempt on August 21.
Russian Su-30SM and a MiG-29 aircraft had ‘strafed’ the boats with their onboard guns in this attack, with the Heads-Up Display (HUD) showing its 30-mm GSh-301 cannon firing at the vessels.
Russia Attacks Ukrainian Ports
A RuMoD update early on Saturday said how “between September 2 to September 9,” it “carried out six group strikes with high-precision long-range sea- and air-based armament and unmanned aerial vehicles against Ukrainian radio-technical reconnaissance facilities, port infrastructure.”
The facilities produced “unmanned boats, ammunition, Western weapons, fuel depots, and training bases for AFU sabotage groups and terrorists from the so-called ‘Russian Volunteer Corps’.”
Before that, on September 3, it released a specific update about launching Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) “against t fuel storage facilities used to supply AFU military hardware in the port of Reni (Odessa region).” The strike successfully “neutralized all assigned targets” and “(reaching its) goal.”
Diverse comments on leading Russian Telegram groups have reached the consensus that Russia decided to take the naval war to Ukrainian-controlled land it had desisted from attacking earlier, prompting the US to show symbolic support to Ukraine.
“They can’t directly say it was the Russian strikes on the ports in Odessa and are therefore using the excuse of sea mines to hold the exercise,” said one Telegram channel.