A U.S. proposal to send more NATO ships to the Black Sea to ensure safe passage for Ukrainian vessels and deter Russia is viewed "negatively" in Moscow, the Kremlin said Wednesday.
Washington has been working on a package to boost surveillance and send more NATO ships to the Black Sea after a naval confrontation between Moscow and Kiev last year, the U.S. ambassador to NATO said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Kremlin viewed such a proposal "negatively." "We do not understand what they mean by this. The situation with the Kerch Straight and navigation there is well known," he told reporters. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko told Russian news agencies the plan would only lead to "increased military risks" in the region. "If additional military and technical measures are needed from our side, we will adopt them," the Interfax news agency quoted Grushko as saying.
Relations between Russia and the Ukraine have been strained further following a Nov. 25 incident in which the Russian coast guard fired upon and seized three Ukrainian naval vessels and their crews off the Crimean Peninsula that Russia annexed from Ukraine. It was the first open military clash between Kiev and Moscow since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea and a pro-Russian insurgency erupted in eastern Ukraine.
Putin has openly said that Moscow's decision to take over Crimea was partly motivated by NATO's expansion into Eastern Europe. Peskov did not say yesterday whether Russia would in fact allow NATO ships to pass through the Azov Sea. "A decision will be made when there is such a request," the Kremlin spokesman said.