Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) Oleksandr Turchynov has announced Ukraine will conduct a naval exercise in the Sea of Azov.
The Ukrainian military is ready to respond to any Russian provocation in the Sea of Azov, Turchynov said at a joint press conference with chief of Poland's National Security Bureau Paweł Soloch in Kyiv while answering a question whether Ukraine would react to military drills planned by Russia in the Sea of Azov soon, an UNIAN correspondent said.
"The Ukrainian military also plans to conduct serious drills in the waters of the Sea of Azov," Turchynov said.
He also recalled Ukraine had been "building up the military component" in the Sea of Azov in response to Russia's aggression under a NSDC decision. "We have been building up the Navy, significantly strengthening the front-line defense and aviation component. And, of course, we are ready to respond to any Russian provocations," Turchynov said.
The Sea of Azov, a strategic arm of the Black Sea where Russia and Ukraine share the coastline, has become a flashpoint this year. Ukraine says Russia is preventing scores of vessels from reaching Ukrainian ports, namely Berdyansk and Mariupol, through spurious inspections and detentions. Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Volodymyr Omelyan said that Ukraine was holding talks with EU countries and the United States over introducing sanctions against Russia in response to the blockade of the Sea of Azov.
Washington has called on Russia to stop "harassing" ships, and supplied Ukraine with U.S. patrol boats. What is happening in the Sea of Azov today is described by experts as the creeping annexation of Azov.
On September 6, the NSDC approved a set of measures aimed at protecting national interests in the country's southern regions, the waters of the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea. According to the decision, it is planned to strengthen the naval presence in the Sea of Azov, create a vessel grouping of the Ukrainian Navy there, develop needed infrastructure, provide coastal defense units with latest high-precision weapons, etc.