According to a report by Interfax on Tuesday (June 29), Russia tested the readiness of its air defense system in the Crimea peninsula annexed from Ukraine in 2014, when Ukraine and NATO countries held military exercises in the Black Sea.
The sea breeze exercise began on Monday after tensions between NATO and Moscow increased. Moscow said last week that it had fired warnings and dropped bombs on a British warship to drive it out of Crimea off the coast of the Black Sea.
Britain claimed that their ship sailed in international waters, while Russia claimed that it was within Russian territorial waters on the Crimean Peninsula. The West does not recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
Interfax News Agency quoted the Russian Black Sea Fleet as saying that it deployed about 20 fighters and helicopters during the combat readiness test, including Su-24M bombers, as well as S-400 and Pantsir surface-to-air missile systems.
Moscow considers Crimea to be part of Russia, but the peninsula is considered part of Ukraine internationally, and hopes it will come back.
Interfax News Agency quoted the National Defense Management Center as saying in a separate statement: “The Black Sea Fleet is doing a lot to monitor the actions of NATO and other countries participating in Haifeng 2021.”
Moscow called for cancellation of the sea breeze exercise, and the Russian Defense Ministry said it would respond when necessary to protect national security.
Haifeng 2021 will last two weeks and will involve approximately 5,000 military personnel from NATO and other allied countries, as well as approximately 30 ships and 40 aircraft. The US guided-missile destroyer Ross and the US Marine Corps will participate.
Russia last week warned Britain and the United States not to “tempt fate” by sending warships to the Black Sea, and said it would use all possible means, including military power, to defend their borders.