“These multinational exercises should be viewed as direct participation by the US and NATO in ramping up the strategic and combat preparedness of the Ukrainian armed forces,” Franz Klintsevich, a member of the State Duma’s Defense Committee, told RIA Novosti earlier in the day.
“The negative impact this will have on the ongoing armed conflict in Donbass is tantamount to sending lethal weapons to Kiev,” he added.
Franz Klintsevich said the Sea Breeze-2015 drill was undermining the implementation of the Minsk accords.
“The choice of the Odessa and Nikolayev regions as the venue of the Sea Breeze exercises is yet another attempt by the United States to provoke Russia,” Klintsevich noted.
The land, naval and air drills, set to run until September 12, are also designed to improve interoperability between the Ukrainian Naval Forces and the Naval Forces of NATO member and partner countries, the statement said.
The exercises, held under NATO's Partnership for Peace program in Ukraine’s Odessa and Nikolayev regions, involve around 2,500 military personnel also from Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Italy, Britain, Romania, Sweden, Turkey and Moldavia, including about 1,000 troops from Ukraine.
Vice Admiral James Foggo, the commander of the US 6th Fleet, described the exercise as “an important opportunity to work with our partners and conduct meaningful training in the land, air, and maritime domains.”