Russia tests air-defense systems as US-led drills begin

TEHRAN, Jun. 29 (MNA) – Russia has tested its air-defense systems in Crimea as Ukraine and the United States begin their joint drills in the Black Sea.

A total of 32 countries, including most Black Sea nations, NATO allies, and partners are attending the Sea Breeze exercise co-hosted by Ukraine and the United States.

The Sea Breeze drills kicked off on June 28 amid rising tensions between Russia and the West following an incident last week involving Russia and a British warship off the coast of Crimea.

The exercise includes 5,000 troops, 32 ships, 40 aircraft, and 18 special operations and dive teams and will last through July 10, according to a report by Radio Free Europe English website.

Russia's Black Sea fleet was cited by Interfax on June 29 as saying it had deployed around 20 aircraft and helicopters, including Su-24M bombers, as well as S-400 and Pantsir surface-to-air missile systems in the readiness tests.

The Sea Breeze exercise comes after Russia said on June 23 that it fired warning shots and dropped bombs in the path of the British destroyer HMS Defender to force it to change course from the area near the Crimean city of Sevastopol.

Britain's Defense Ministry denied the HMS Defender had been fired upon, saying that Russia was carrying out a previously announced "gunnery exercise" in the area. Britain said it was practicing freedom of navigation in Ukrainian and international waters.

In response to the incident, Moscow warned it was prepared to fire on warships entering territorial waters it claims around Crimea.

Moscow called for the Sea Breeze military exercises to be canceled before they started, and the Russian Defense Ministry has said it will protect national security if necessary.

KI/PR

News Code 175482

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