News compilation by New Cold War.org, July 24, 2017
British and Turkish warships arrive in Ukraine for NATO Black Sea drills
A British missile destroyer and a Turkish frigate have docked at the port of Odessa in Ukraine for a joint NATO maritime exercise, which comes just a week after the NATO bloc’s massive ‘Sea Breeze 2017’war games took place off the same shore.
The Royal Navy’s HMS Duncan and the Turkish Navy frigate Yildirim moored in the Black Sea port of Odessa on Monday, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry wrote on its website. Both ships, which belong to NATO Standing Maritime Group 2 (NSMG2) covering the Mediterranean, are expected to remain in Ukrainian waters until July 27.
“The program of the ships’ visit includes a joint exercise with the Ukrainian Navy to train mid-sea survival skills as well as surveillance operations,” the press release said.
It added the British and Turkish warships will then participate in separate naval drills, a so-called ‘passing exercise’ (PASSEX), involving Ukrainian vessels. Usually, PASSEX-type exercises are conducted to ensure that vessels from different navies are able to communicate with one another in wartime or during humanitarian operations.
HMS Duncan is the sixth and last of the Type 45 air-defense destroyers commissioned for the Royal Navy. The £billion [$1.3 billion] destroyers were meant to revolutionize naval warfare with greater anti-aircraft and anti-missile clout, becoming a backbone of the Royal Navy in the next decades.
The Turkish Navy’s Yildirim is a Yavuz-class frigate designed in Germany. Also a part of NSMG2, it is armed with Harpoon anti-ship missiles as well as air defense weapons systems.
The two NATO vessels arrived in Odessa several days after the U.S., Ukraine and 14 other nations deployed warships, combat aircraft and special operations teams for the ‘Sea Breeze 2017’ exercise off the Ukrainian coast.
Notably, the U.S. Navy sent its Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Hue City and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Carney,’ along with a P-8A Poseidon patrol aircraft, the Sixth Fleet said in a press release.
Moscow has long objected to NATO’s large-scale war games near Russia’s borders, which intensified after the March 2014 referendum in which Crimea opted to reunite with mainland Russia.
In the meantime, a top U.S. commander alleged that the Russia-Belarus drills ‘Zapad 2017’, planned for September, could be a “Trojan horse” for Europe. “People are worried, this is a Trojan horse. They say, ‘We’re just doing an exercise,’ and then all of a sudden they’ve moved all these people and capabilities somewhere,” Lieutenant-General Ben Hodges, commander of U.S. Army forces in Europe, told Reuters.
Belarus and Russia refuted the allegations, pointing at NATO’s ongoing buildup in Eastern Europe. Last Wednesday, Russian Envoy to NATO Aleksandr Grushko said that “propaganda stories” on Zapad 2017 are caused by the NATO military buildup on the eastern flank.
In turn, Belarusian Defense Minister Andrey Ravkov stressed that Zapad 2017 is far smaller than certain NATO war games in Eastern Europe, including the ‘Anaconda 2016’ exercise in Poland which involved over 30,000 troops and hundreds of armored vehicles.
“While Anaconda 2016 has not caused hysteria among us, we were receptive to the past exercise,” despite the fact that it had an “obvious hostile nature,” Ravkov told TASS. He added that international organizations, including the UN, NATO, and the OSCE, as well as more than 80 foreign observers, are invited to the Zapad drills as there is “nothing to conceal.”
Large ‘Sea Breeze 2017’ NATO naval exercise practices war games off Ukraine coast, RT.com, July 10, 2017 (with video news report)
Trump open to signing Russia sanctions legislation, says White House official, Reuters, July 24, 2017
Brussels to act ‘within days’ if U.S. sanctions hurt EU trade with Russia – internal memo, RT.com, July 24, 2017
Ukraine president calls for an end to Russian aggression [sic], reports by Western news agencies, on Deutsche Welle, July 24, 2017
Nine Ukrainian soldiers killed in bloodiest day of fighting in 2017
The United States is condemning an outbreak of violence in eastern Ukraine, calling it the deadliest 24-hour period so far this year. Ukraine’s military says nine soldiers have died in the east where Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed rebels have been fighting for more than three years.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert says that five deaths were in clashes that appear to have been initiated by what she described as Russian-led forces. Ten soldiers were also wounded and one was captured, according to the Ukrainian Ministry Defense. Two civilians were also reported wounded in Avdiivka on Wednesday morning [July 19].
Nauert said the U.S. is asking the Russia-supported troops to abide by the terms of a ceasefire deal for eastern Ukraine that was signed in early 2015 but never fully implemented. The U.S. has called on those forces to allow international monitors to have “full, safe, and unfettered” access to the conflict zone, Nauert said.
At least 20 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed and at least 35 more have been wounded in the first 20 days of July, according to [anti-Russia] Liveuamap.
Kyiv forces shell residential areas with illumination rounds with changed fuse settings, Donetsk News Agency, July 24, 2017
Kremlin dismisses Ukraine’s criticism of ‘assault divisions’ deployment, RT.com, July 24, 2017
Volunteer battalions [sic] represent a legitimacy dilemma for the Ukrainian government, by Michael Sheldon, The National Interest, July 19, 2017