First U.S. ship since Russian seizure of Ukrainian ships arrives in Black Sea

Jan. 7 (UPI) — A U.S. Navy ship entered the Black Sea over the weekend for the first time since Russia seized three Ukrainian vessels there last year.

The amphibious dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry passed through Turkey’s Dardenalles Strait on Sunday, arriving in the Black Sea on Monday, whose border is shared by Russia, Georgia, Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria.

In November, Russia seized Ukrainian military vessels in the sea’s Kerch Strait. The Ukrainian ships were fired upon, and 24 crew members were detained. The Ukrainian ships illegally crossed the Russian maritime border on the sea, Russia said, and a criminal case was opened.

No U.S. Navy ship has entered the Black Sea since August, when the destroyer USS Carney and the fast transport vessel USNS Carson City performed separate missions there.

“We routinely operate in the Black Sea consistent with international law and the Montreux Convention and will continue to do so,” Cmdr. Kyle Raines, spokesman for the Navy’s 6th Fleet, said. “We also continue our call for Ukraine and Russia to seek a diplomatic resolution to their dispute.”

Russia, since it seized the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, regards the arrival of a U.S. warship on the Black Sea as an intrusion, although legal by international law.

The U.S. Navy considers a show of force in the area necessary to display a commitment to nearby allies, Stars and Stripes noted on Monday. Although not a NATO member, Ukraine is regarded as an ally.

The Russian defense ministry said on Monday that a patrol ship was monitoring the actions of the USS Fort McHenry.

“Patrol ship Pytlivy of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is performing a complex of activities to control the actions of amphibious transport dock USS Fort McHenry,” the ministry said in a statement. It later added, “The ship entered the Romanian port of Constanta.”

The visit to Constanta on Monday was scheduled in advance.

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