A fleet of at least four NATO warships has docked in the Ukrainian port of Odessa on the shores of the Black Sea, Dumskaya.net online media outlet reported. The ships arrived around 9 am GMT on 10 March, according to the media. The commanders of the fleet are reportedly expected to meet with the leadership of the Ukrainian Navy during the visit to Odessa.
The arriving NATO fleet includes Turkish training ship A577 TCG Sokullu Mehmet Paşa and three minehunters: Turkish M267 TCG Ayvalik, Spanish TSPS Tajo (M36) and Romanian ROS Lt Lupu Dinescu.
Ships from #Turkey, #Spain & #Romania today docked at #Ukraine's Odessa port on the #BlackSea. Part of the NATO Mine Action Group, it's planned to hold protocol meetings with #Ukrainian Navy & engage in joint trainings exercises in the Black Sea. https://t.co/Wo9gc3tedj #Crimea pic.twitter.com/8UixZ3rZn8— Glasnost Gone (@GlasnostGone) March 10, 2021
This is the first docking of NATO ships in a Ukrainian port this year, but is far from being the first over the past six years. In 2014, Kiev rescinded its neutral status as a result of a government coup supported by western countries. In 2016, Ukraine set entering the NATO alliance as one of its priorities in foreign policy.
The alliance has also intensified its military presence in Black Sea waters following the start of the deterioration of ties with Russia in 2014. NATO's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg stressed the need to further boost the bloc's military foothold in the Black Sea in November 2020, despite Moscow protests. At the same time, the alliance has so far been reluctant to accept Ukraine in its ranks, citing the need for the country to first meet many issues.