Russia has begun large-scale exercise of the Black Sea Fleet in annexed Crimea.
The press service of the Black Sea Fleet said that 30 ships are taking part in the naval exercises to practice the defense of the annexed peninsula.
"More than 30 ships of the Black Sea Fleet left the ports of Sevastopol and Novorossiysk according to the exercise plan," the press service of the Black Sea fleet said in a statement.
Frigates, patrol and small missile ships, missile boats, amphibious and small anti-submarine ships and also mine sweepers will take part in the exercises. The drill will be led by the commander of the Black Sea Fleet Igor Osipov.
The purpose of the exercises is to work out the defense of the Crimean coast, the naval bases of the Black Sea Fleet, the industrial infrastructure facilities, as well as sea communications and areas of maritime economic activity from possible military threats.
Joint Russian-Belarusian exercises "Allied Resolve – 2022" are being held in parallel with the naval exercises in the Black Sea. Troops of the Russian Eastern Military District are taking part in these exercises. The maneuvers are taking place amid reports about a possible escalation of the situation around Ukraine. According to Politico and Spiegel, Russia may invade Ukraine on February 16. Bloomberg called the possible date of the invasion February 15. U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said that Russia could launch a military operation before the end of the Olympics in Beijing.
The Russian Ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, said that the reports that Russia will "invade" Ukraine "before or after the Olympics" are not supported by evidence.
"We see in such statements only the desire of the U.S. administration to increase the propaganda campaign against our country, to form an impression among the public that "aggression" is inevitable," Antonov said. According to him, U.S. officials continue to "blow smoke" without giving the details of intelligence on which they base their allegations.