Russian ships carry out drills amid military build-up at Ukraine border

14 April 2021, 18:52 | Updated: 15 April 2021, 00:53

Russian ships performed an exercise in the Black Sea amid tensions in the region
Russian ships performed an exercise in the Black Sea amid tensions in the region. Picture: PA/Sergei Malgavko/TASS

By Will Taylor

Russia has carried out a snap naval exercise in the Black Sea as tensions rise with Ukraine.

The Russian Navy said a group of ships, including the frigate Admiral Makarov, set out to conduct artillery fire and trained overcoming a mock minefield.

The exercise comes after Vladimir Putin dispatched military formations to the border with Ukraine – described by Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg as the biggest Russian buildup in seven years - and the US sent two warships into the sea.

Speaking previously, Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu said his country’s deployments were a response to what he called efforts by NATO to increase their forces at Russia's border.

He said the two armies and three airborne formations sent to the west of his country were "a response to the alliance's military activities threatening Russia".

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"The troops have shown their full readiness to fulfil tasks to ensure the country's security," he added.

More than 14,000 people have died during fighting in the east of Ukraine between the Government and Russian-backed separatists, which broke out as Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

Joe Biden has told President Putin to “de-escalate tensions” in a phone call.

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Two US warships were set to sail into the Black Sea today and remain until early May, which Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov denounced as "openly provocative".

"Seeing itself as the Queen of the Seas, the US should realise that the risks of various incidents are very high," he said.

"We warn the US that it should stay away from Crimea and our Black Sea coast for their own benefit."

NATO has reiterated its support for Ukraine while Russia said it is free to deploy its troops wherever it wants in its territory.