Russia sent a fleet of over 20 warships to launch multiple cruise missiles in the Black Sea on Tuesday — days after defying President Biden’s demand that the nation drop its military offensive against neighboring Ukraine.
Video released by the TASS news agency, a state-owned wire service known largely as a propaganda outlet for the Kremlin, showed the Admiral Essen, a massive Russian naval frigate, launching a series of missiles into the air.
The agency described it as “a joint exercise.”
News of the “exercise” comes amid ramped-up tensions in the region, with Biden declaring a national emergency last Thursday, slapping sanctions on more than three dozen people in Russia and expelling 10 diplomats.
At the same time, he scrapped plans to send two US warships to the Black Sea.
Russian President Vladimir Putin subsequently closed off the Kerch Strait to foreign warships until next fall.
Since the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, Russia has supported pro-Russian insurgents in neighboring republics — including shoring up allied breakaway states in Georgia and Moldova.
Putin presided over the annexation of Crimea in 2014 without Ukraine’s consent in a rare present-day boundary change by force.
Russian troop deployments are often murky, but Putin’s government is believed to have deployed troops to Crimea to facilitate the 2014 annexation and to have secretly supported a pair of breakaway provinces in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region.
The Kremlin has continued to increase its military presence in the region, specifically with its naval ships in the Black Sea.
Over the weekend, it sent two more warships and 15 smaller vessels to join the fleet it already has in that waterway.
The military moves come amid a tit-for-tat between Washington and Moscow over sanctions and other diplomatic rows.
After Biden announced a slew of new US sanctions on Russia at the end of last week, Moscow responded by saying it would expel 10 US diplomats in retaliation.
It did not include on that list, however, US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan, appointed under former President Donald Trump and retained by Biden thus far.
Late last week, the Kremlin urged the Biden administration to summon Sullivan back to the US for in-person talks on the heightened tensions between the two countries, something the ambassador initially refused.
Sullivan caved by Monday, saying in a statement he would come home for a week while vowing to return.
“I believe it is important for me to speak directly with my new colleagues in the Biden administration in Washington about the current state of bilateral relations between the United States and Russia,” his statement read.
“Also, I have not seen my family in well over a year, and that is another important reason for me to return home for a visit,” he continued. “I will return to Moscow in the coming weeks before any meeting between Presidents Biden and Putin.”
With Post wires