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Published 3 April 2019

Russia is ready to respond to new threats of NATO in the Black Sea, following months of heightened tensions in the region. 

NATO has announced its plans to expand its surveillance on Russian Naval Forces in the Black Sea following months of heigthened tensions, which sparked after Russian forces have seized three Ukrainian ships and arrested 24 sailors in November 2018. The Russian Federation has claimed the incident was provoked after the Ukrainian ships illegally crossed its border near Crimea, despite repeated warnings from the Russian Coast Guard. 

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The 22 Permanent Representative of the United States to NATO, Kay Bailey Hutchison, told reporters about plans to increase the presence of NATO in the Black Sea and ensure the safe passage of Ukrainian ships. 

"We are working on a package of measures that we plan to submit to the foreign ministers. These measures provide for enhanced surveillance, including air, while a larger number of NATO ships will enter the Black Sea to ensure the safe passage of Ukrainian ships through the Kerch Strait to the Azov Sea Sea," she said in the press briefing. 

Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry stressed Russia's preparedness to respond to any threats made by NATO on and near its territory. Deputy Foreign Minister, Alexander Grushko, stated that his country will carefully assess the situation and  told reporters "if additional military-technical measures are required on our part, we will take them."

"Our positions are clear: any NATO enhancements in the Black Sea region are senseless from a military point of view, they will not strengthen the security of either the region or NATO itself; only they will be accompanied by additional military risks," Grushko added. 

In January of this year, the U.S. sent out two warships within a time-span of two weeks, adding to increasing tensions in the Black Sea. In response, the Russian government dispatched a patrol vessel to closely monitor the path of the warships.

According to the Montreux Convention of 1936, warships that do not belong to any of the Black Sea states, are only allowed in the Black Sea for 21 days in total. 

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