Four North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ships entered the Black Sea today in a regularly scheduled deployment to enhance NATO solidarity and readiness in the region, reads the statement on the alliance’s official web site.
The ships are from the Standing NATO Mine Counter-Measures Group TWO (SNMCMG2), one of four NATO fleets that operate on a rotational basis.
The NATO commander leading the formation is Captain Giovanni Piegaja of the Italian Navy. His flagship is an Italian Navy frigate, the ITS AVIERE, which is accompanied by the ITS RIMINI, also of the Italian Navy, the TCG AKÇAY of the Turkish Navy and the HMS CHIDDINGFOLD of the Royal Navy (UK).
According to the statement, warships’ deployment to the Black Sea will include a visit to the port of Burgas, in Bulgaria on 4 July and participation in the Bulgarian Navy led Exercise BREEZE -- nine-day-long military exercise aimed at improving the tactical compatibility and collaboration among naval forces of the alliance's member states.
The exercise, which ends July 13, starts amid stepped-up presence of alliance forces in the Black Sea over the Ukraine crisis and Russia's decision to incorporate the Crimean peninsula in March this year.