Russian fleet sails into the Black Sea amid growing tensions with Ukraine

A task force of Russian amphibious assault ships is passing through the Bosporus and the Dardanelles as it heads from the Meditteranean to the Black Sea for what officials in Moscow insist are “naval exercises.”

The Korolev, Minsk and Kaliningrad “large landing ships” are making their way through the passage, while the Pyotr Morgunov, Georgy Pobedonosets and Olenegorsky Gornyak are scheduled to begin entering the seaway Wednesday, according to a statement from Russia’s Ministry of Defense.

The naval exercises come as Russia continues to mass more than 100,000 troops along its border with Ukraine and in Belarus, prompting Biden administration officials to send about 3,000 U.S. troops to nervous NATO allies such as Poland and Romania.

According to Russian defense officials, the main objective of the January-February naval drills is to “work out the actions of the Navy and Aerospace Forces to protect Russian national interests in the world’s oceans as well as counter military threats to the Russian Federation from sea and ocean directions.”

The exercises will cover waters adjacent to Russian territory along with “operationally important” sections of the world’s oceans. More than 140 warships and support vehicles, 60 aircraft and 10,000 military personnel are taking part in the maneuvers, Russian officials said.

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