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The string of NATO ships casually approaching Crimea and checking what would potentially happen is increasing.
In the early hours of June 30th, online ship tracking services showed the U.S. Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Ross, sailing together with a Ukrainian patrol boat just five miles off the coast of the Crimean Peninsula.
The US Navy, however, denied that ship was ever anywhere near Crimea. It announced that despite the reports and tracking services information, the ship is in the port of Odessa and would remain there for the foreseeable future.
A live webcam feed hosted on YouTube showed the vessel in the Ukrainian port of Odessa.
These claims followed the UK’s HMS Defender actually entering Russian territorial waters and Russian forces issuing warning shots from both ships and Su-24 bombers on June 23rd.
If the reports based on tracking services are true, this would have put the US warship closer to the Crimean peninsula than the U.K. Royal Navy’s Type 45 destroyer HMS Defender had been.
It later turned out that, on June 24th, Russian Su-30 fighters and Su-24 bombers flew near the Dutch Navy frigate Evertsen, following the frigate’s move towards the Crimean eastern coast.
In order to prevent violation of the territorial waters of the Russian Federation, aircraft took the air and flew near a Dutch Navy warship, forcing it to change the course.
Less than a week later, on June 29, the Dutch Defense Ministry claimed that Moscow had “harassed” the warship.
Notably, approximately a week before the provocations, USNI news reported that both the HMS Defender and the Dutch Eversten were subject to location spoofing. Both ships were sitting in the port of Odessa, while ship tracking showed they were near Sevastopol, Crimea.
The USS Ross, the HMS Defender and the Eversten are all in the Black Sea amid NATO’s Sea Breeze 2021 exercises. 2021’s iteration has the largest number of participating nations in the exercise’s history with 32 countries from six continents providing 5,000 troops, 32 ships, 40 aircraft, and 18 special operations and dive teams scheduled to participate.
The drills, led by the U.S. and Ukraine, will continue through July 10th, and more “accidental” provocations and location spoofing are potentially on the radar in the upcoming two weeks