The UK Royal Navy’s Type 45 destroyer HMS Duncan has arrived in the port of Odessa, Ukraine, to take part in the Nato exercise Sea Breeze 2019. It forms part of a 19-nation contingent of 32 ships, 24 aircraft and 3,000 troops in the Black Sea.
Commander of the UK Carrier Strike Group commodore Michael Utley said: “With a multitude of nations combining a wealth of maritime assets, Exercise Sea Breeze 2019 demonstrates the strength of solidarity between Ukraine and its international partners.
“From crucial training exercises to long-term political reform, the UK is committed to standing by Ukraine, whilst Russia maintains its illegal annexation of Crimea.”
The 8,000t HMS Duncan carries 190 personnel and is set to return to patrolling the Mediterranean after the exercise. It forms a vital part of the Royal Navy’s fleet, with the first Type 45 launched in 2006 and entering service in 2009.
New Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the Type 45 on Sunday during a visit to Odessa for Ukrainian Navy Day.
The exercise takes place over 12 days and has come under increasing scrutiny from Russia due to its proximity to annexed Crimea, which is also on the Black Sea. The Russian Air Force last week sent a Sukhoi Su-27 fighter jet to intercept an American P-8A Poseidon patrol aircraft. The Russian Navy has also sent ten vessels from its Black Sea Fleet to monitor the exercises and take part in their own combat and navigational exercises.
The countries participating in the exercise are Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, France, Georgia, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Norway, Poland, Romania, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine, the UK, and the US.
Other ships taking part in the exercise include the destroyer USS Carney and the fast transport USNS Yuma, the first foreign vessel to arrive for participation in the exercises.
US Navy vice-admiral Lisa M Franchetti said: “Carney’s transit to the Black Sea and support to Sea Breeze reaffirms the US Navy’s commitment to this vital region and our valued partners.”
Russian State Media was quick to assert that under the terms of the Montreux International Convention any vessels that do not belong to Black Sea Countries must leave within 21 days.
In recent year,s the UK has formed a strong defence relationship with Ukraine, helping to train around 16,000 personnel across the country. One focus of the training is assisting to develop Ukraine’s naval forces as part of a programme called Operation Orbital.