Russia says six warships from its navy are heading to the Black Sea from the Mediterranean to take part in military maneuvers amid heightened tensions with the West over Moscow’s troop buildup on its border with Ukraine, which has raised fears of a possible invasion of the former Soviet republic.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement on February 8 that the ships of the Baltic Fleet and the Northern Fleet were passing the Bosphorus strait in “a planned manner” to take part in pre-announced military drills in the Black Sea.
The ships are expected to sail through the Turkish waterway on February 8 and February 9, Reuters quoted Turkish maritime sources as saying.
Legally, NATO member Turkey could shut the straits to transit if Russia were to take military action against Ukraine.
The show of strength is part of a series of exercises that Russia’s Navy is undertaking around the world.
Last month, the Defense Ministry announced the start of military exercises with than 140 military vessels and more than 10,000 military personnel involved.
Russia has denied it plans to invade Ukraine saying it may position its troops anywhere it wants on its own soil.
At the same time, however, Moscow is also demanding wide-ranging security guarantees from the United States and NATO as a way to de-escalate the situation.