The United Kingdom will deploy two warships to the Black Sea in May as a show of support for Ukraine amid tension with Russia, The Sunday Times reported.
Citing naval sources, the report said that two warships from a Royal Navy task force in the Mediterranean Sea will enter the Black Sea. One is a Type 45 destroyer equipped with anti-aircraft missiles and the other an anti-submarine Type 23 frigate while F-35B fighter jets onboard the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier will remain on standby.
To enter the Black Sea, a non-littoral state like the U.K. must send advanced notification to Turkey ahead of the arrival. This is in line with the 1936 Montreux Convention that governs the passage of warships through the Bosphorus Strait that Turkey straddles.
The British warships are set to arrive amid fears that a confrontation could break out between Ukraine and Russia. For weeks, Russian forces have conducted military maneuvers opposite the Ukrainian border where an insurgency is actively waged by pro-Moscow separatists in the Donbass region.
In 2014, Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine by deploying armed Russian soldiers without insignia to seize control. A deeply-flawed referendum was then launched shortly after that greenlit the peninsula joining Russia.
The U.K. as well as Turkey criticised Russia for its annexation of Ukrainian territory alongside other members of NATO. Turkey has maintained close ties to Russia as well as Ukraine, but has drawn Moscow’s ire for its growing defence cooperation with Kyiv.
Earlier this week, Moscow warned Ankara over drone deliveries to Ukraine, saying Turkey was provoking the “militarist’’ tendencies of the country.
Two United States destroyers had previously alerted the Turkish foreign ministry that they would enter the Black Sea for a similar mission this month, but recently canceled the deployment. The reason was not immediately clear, but U.S. officials insisted that the deployment itself was never confirmed by Washington.