Putin warns of 'serious challenge' over increasing presence of NATO naval forces in Black Sea, ministry sees possibility of war

Putin warns: Russia President Vladimir Putin says the US and other NATO allies are carrying out provocative action by sailing warships in the Black Sea close to its territory.

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“The United States and its allies in NATO are carrying out unplanned exercises in the Black Sea. Not only is a rather powerful naval group involved in these exercises, but also aviation, including strategic aviation. This is a serious challenge for us,” Putin said in an interview aired Saturday. 

Russia’s ministry of defense said it detected six flights by NATO spy planes in airspace over the Black Sea, part of what it described as intensifying reconnaissance by the Western military.

The Russian military also said it was tracking US naval ships in the Black Sea and accused Washington of studying the region as a potential theatre of war.

The warnings came after Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited Paris for talks with their French counterparts Florence Parly and Jean-Yves Le Drian in order to de-escalate the situation.

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Lavrov said they had discussed an increased presence of NATO naval forces in the Black Sea and the military alliance’s aggressive stance towards his country recently.

France’s foreign and defense ministers issued an unusually blunt statement after the meeting, saying they “clearly warned of the serious consequences of any further possible damage to the territorial integrity of Ukraine”.

The statement came after inflammatory suggestions by the US and the Europeans that Moscow might be weighing an attack on Ukraine. 

US top diplomat Antony Blinken on Wednesday warned Russia against making what he called another “serious mistake” on Ukraine. 

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Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said after visiting Washington that his country had asked the US for urgent security support, including intelligence sharing, or air defense systems, “or anything”.

Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov is travelling to Washington early next week for further consultations, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said.

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