The country’s deputy foreign minister, Alexander Grushko, slammed the military alliance for its movements in the strategic region saying they would “undermine stability. His comments come as five NATO ships took part in Sea Shield 2019, an annual Romanian-led naval exercise in the Black Sea. When questioned on how Moscow views the military conglomerate’s build-up in the region, he responded: “Definitely negative”.
The state-controlled Tass news agency quoted Mr Grushko, 63, saying: “Their activities in the Black Sea region cannot add security, they are just undermining regional stability.
“We will definitely take every precaution to neutralise the threats related to increased NATO activity in that region.”
Mr Grushko was speaking to reporters at the 27th assembly of the council on foreign and defence policy.
The politician was last year dismissed by President Putin from his post as ambassador to NATO and appointed as deputy foreign minister. No reason was given for the move.
He said the Kremlin was “closely following” NATO’s drills as tensions grow in the region and added “we will respond in kind”.
Mr Grushko accused the trans-Atlantic alliance of meddling in affairs that were none of its business.
He added: “Our deep belief is that security in that region should be, first and foremost, ensured through cooperation among Black Sea littoral states.”
The area has been the focus of increasing tensions in recent months after three Ukrainian naval vessels were captured by the Russians in November.
The ships were seized as they made their way across the Kerch Strait. All 24 on board were arrested and charged with “violating the Russian border”.
Naval ships and aircraft from the US, Canada, Greece, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey, in cooperation with representatives from Georgian and Ukrainian forces, took part in Sea Shield 2019, which ran from April 9 to 13.
Many experts consider the Black Sea to be of high-importance when it comes to projecting power in Eastern and Central Europe, as well as the Eastern Mediterranean and the South Caucasus.
Hostility in the region has a direct impact on NATO as it is home to three of its members – Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey.