The announcement came days after Russia closed the Kerch Strait to all foreign military vessels, cutting off the Ukrainian Navy’s access to the Black Sea.
Turkey’s NTV channel is confirming a Sunday Times report that said the UK is preparing to sail two warships into the Black Sea via the Bosporus starting next month amid continued fears that a major confrontation between Russia and Ukraine could break out.
“Putting the ships off the coast of Ukraine is intended to show solidarity with Kiev and Nato allies in the region after the President Biden decided to cancel the deployment of two American warships to the Black Sea last week for fear of escalating the crisis over the massing of Russian troops,” The Sunday Times wrote.
Biden had canceled the US warship deployment after a phone call with Russia’s Putin, wherein the US president also expressed willingness for a face-to-face summit at some point in the summer – an overture that angered hawks, given it put the White House in a “weak” position due to no conditions being agreed to ahead of such a high level bilateral summit
According to further details in The Sunday Times:
One Type 45 destroyer armed with anti-aircraft missiles and an anti-submarine Type 23 frigate will peel off from the Royal Navy’s carrier task group in the Mediterranean and head through the Bosphorus into the Black Sea, according to senior naval sources.
RAF F-35B Lightning stealth jets and Merlin submarine-hunting helicopters are to stand ready on the task group’s flag ship, the carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, to support the warships in the Black Sea should they be threatened by Russian warships, submarines or aircraft. HMS Queen Elizabeth has to stay in the Mediterranean because an international treaty prohibits aircraft carriers from entering the Black Sea.
The Montreux Agreement of 1936 dictates that foreign powers passing through the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles straits must notify Turkey two weeks ahead of time before their passage.
Interestingly, the Royal Navy had plans for near-future Black Sea missions prior to current tensions and Russia’s troop build-up in Crimea and near the Ukrainian border. But this new deployment is now being recast as “solidarity” toward Ukraine. The announcement further came days after Russia closed the Kerch Strait to all foreign military vessels, essentially cutting off the Ukrainian Navy’s access to the Black Sea.
Britain’s Ministry of Defence was cited as saying for example: “The UK and our international allies are unwavering in our support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We are working closely with Ukraine to monitor the current situation and continue to call on Russia to de-escalate.”
“Our armed forces continue to support Ukraine through our training mission Operation Orbital, which has trained over 20,000 members of the armed forces of Ukraine, and the UK-led Maritime Training Initiative,” it added.