Pentagon sends flight over Ukraine following Russian naval incident

Clay Curtis
December 8, 2018

The complaints come three days after Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Volodymyr Omelyan announced that Russian Federation had "partially" unblocked Ukraine's Sea of Azov ports, allowing Ukrainian ship to pass through the Kerch Strait for the first time since November 25.

The announcement sets up another possible flashpoint in the long-simmering conflict between Russia and Ukraine that erupted in 2014 with Russia's annexation of the Crimean peninsula burst into the open on November 25 when Russian border guards opened fire on three Ukrainian navy vessels that were moving through the Kerch Strait near Crimea and seized the ships and their crews.

The United States is not discussing the possibility of a military response to the recent naval flare-up in the Kerch Strait, the highest-ranking USA military officer said on Thursday.

The warning by Ukraine's Defense Ministry sets up another possible military confrontation in the area, where Russian seized three Ukrainian Navy ships and 24 crewmen on November 25.

The last "extraordinary" observation flight over Ukraine was in 2014 in response to Russia's military intervention in Crimea.

The Open Skies Treaty permits each of the 34 state parties the right to gather information about the military forces and activities of other state parties, but an extraordinary flight allows countries to conduct the flights on a bilateral basis. It kicks off a 15-day wait before the ship can move into the Black Sea.

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On Wednesday the US Navy sent its USS McCampbell, a guided missile destroyer, through the Sea of Japan, "in the vicinity of Peter the Great Bay", the Navy said.

Ukrainian boats had attempted a provocation in the Sea of Azov a month before the Kerch Strait incident, according to a senior Russian naval official. Since then, Washington has sought to show its support for Ukraine while condemning Russian actions.

"The timing of this flight is meant to reaffirm USA commitment to Ukraine and other partner nations", according to a US military statement.

The United States has begun making preparations to sail a warship into the Black Sea amid Russia-Ukraine tensions, CNN has reported.

Pahon said the plane had 17-member crew from the 55th Wing based at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska.

A U.S. Air Force OC-135B observation aircraft flew over Ukraine with U.S., Canadian, German, French, United Kingdom, Romanian and Ukrainian observers on board, the Pentagon told Business Insider in an emailed statement.

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