Russian navy tracks U.S. destroyer as it reaches Black Sea

The U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Ross crossed the Bosporus straits to counter Russia’s assertive stance in the Black Sea, U.S. military news site Stars and Stripes reported.

U.S. and NATO officials have pledged to increase their presence in the Black Sea to respond to Moscow’s assertive policies, “especially in the waters near the Crimean Peninsula, which was seized from Ukraine in 2014,” Stars and Stripes said.

Last year Russia captured three Ukrainian ships, imprisoning 24 sailors, in the Kerch Strait near the Crimean Peninsula.

The USS Ross’s journey is the fourth time the U.S. Navy has sent a vessel to the Black Sea in a year. NATO ships spent 120 days in the Black Sea last year, compared to 80 in 2017, Stars and Stripes reported.

“Our allies in the Black Sea continue to play a key role in maintaining security in the European theater,” the news site quoted the destroyer’s commanding officer saying.

Russian officials have called the arrival of the USS Ross a provocation on state television, and said they are monitoring the ship’s activities.

Chinese state news agency Xinhua quoted a Russian Defence Ministry statement as saying two Russian navy vessels had been sent to track the U.S. destroyer.

"The Vasily Bykov corvette and the Ivan Khurs reconnaissance ship of the Black Sea Fleet carried out direct control over the movements of the U.S. warship," the statement said.

Russia has modernised and strengthened its Black Sea fleet over the past decade to become the dominant navy in the sea, the U.S. Naval War College’s Russia maritime expert Michael Petersen said.