U.S. rejects Russia’s claims that its military exercises are a cover for an arms transfer to Ukraine
The U.S. military has rejected Russian claims that the joint Black Sea exercises scheduled to be launched later this month by the U.S., Ukraine and other partner countries would serve as a cover for a secret weapons transfer to Ukraine, which continues to grapple with a years-long conflict on its eastern border with Russia.
Days after U.S. and Ukrainian forces announced that this year’s edition of the annual Sea Breeze exercise would run from June 28 to July 10, the Russian Defense Ministry convened a briefing last Wednesday led by Major General Igor Konashenkov.
The Russian official said the maneuvers are expected to include about 4,000 military personnel, 40 warships, boats and support vessels, 30 units of aviation equipment and more than 100 units of cars and armored vehicles. Among the 27 countries that will reportedly participate are Ukraine and the members of the Western NATO military alliance, the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey and Latvia.
NATO presence in strategic waters, on land and in the air in and around the Black Sea region alone is cause for concern, he said, but Konashenkov saw another hidden threat.
“And even more, under the guise of the exercise, it is planned to deliver modern weapons, ammunition and material property for Ukrainian troops,” Konashenkov told reporters. “All this, as in previous years, will be directed to Ukrainian troops and nationalist formations stationed near non-Kiev-controlled areas in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.”
The Russian Defense Ministry, Konashenkov said, “will closely monitor the course of preparation and implementation of the Ukrainian-American Sea Breeze exercise with the participation of NATO countries and, if necessary, respond appropriately to the developing situation in the interests of ensuring the military security of the Russian Federation.”
The accusations were voiced the next day by Russia’s permanent representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Alexander Lukashevich.
“According to the available information, under the guise of exercises, it is planned to deliver modern weapons, ammunition and material property to Ukraine,” Lukashevich said. “As in previous years, the weapons will be delivered to the Armed Forces of Ukraine and to paramilitary units of Ukrainian nationalists stationed near the line of contact in the Donbass.” This is a brief summary.