The US State Department has called reports of Russian plans to blockade parts of the Black Sea an “unprovoked escalation”, which could ultimately affect access to Ukrainian ports amid intense tensions. for the military maneuvers in Moscow.
The United States and its European allies have raised concerns about Russia’s military build-up in recent weeks and fear that Moscow is planning to invade Ukraine. Russia, which backs separatists in eastern Ukraine, annexed Crimea in 2014.
Russian state media have reported that Moscow intends to close parts of the Black Sea to foreign military ships and officials for six months, which could affect access to Ukrainian ports on the Sea of Azov, which is connected to the Black Sea. through the Kerch. Close.
On Tuesday, more than 20 Russian warships participated in military exercises in the Black Sea, Interfax news agency reported, citing a statement from the Russian Black Sea fleet.
Russia has temporarily restricted the movement of foreign warships and what it called “other state ships” near Crimea.
“This represents another unprovoked escalation in Moscow’s ongoing campaign to undermine and destabilize Ukraine,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
“This development is particularly worrying amid credible reports of Russian troop buildup in occupied Crimea and around Ukraine’s borders, now at levels not seen since Russia’s invasion in 2014,” he added.
Last week, Washington imposed sanctions on Russia and expelled its ambassadors for Moscow’s interference in last year’s US presidential elections, cyberattack, harassment of Ukraine and other alleged “evil” actions.
Days later, Russia expelled the US diplomats in a tit-for-tat move.
Ukraine and Russia have exchanged blame for increased violence in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, where Ukrainian troops have fought Russian-backed separatist forces in a conflict that Kyiv says has killed 14,000 people since 2014.
The US Federal Aviation Administration on Monday urged airlines to exercise “extreme caution” when flying near the Ukraine-Russia border, citing potential flight safety risks.
Top EU diplomat Josep Borrell said on Monday that more than 100,000 Russian soldiers have gathered at the Ukraine border and in annexed Crimea.
He said that at the moment no new economic sanctions or expulsions of Russian diplomats are planned.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, after addressing the EU Foreign Ministers, called on the EU to impose new sanctions on Russia.