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Russia holds Black Sea drills amid Ukraine tensions

A Russian navy cruiser is set to hold live ammunition drills in the Black Sea as a US Coast Guard ship is entering the area.

Russian military ships off Crimea

Russia has conducted navy drills off Crimea last week

Russia started a series of naval combat exercises in the Black Sea on Tuesday, as the US dispatched a coastguard vessel to the region amid tensions between Moscow and Kyiv. The Russian navy said it was monitoring the vessel.

Ukraine and Western governments have hit out at Russian military activity along its border and on the Crimean peninsula, although some troops were pulled backlast week by the Kremlin.

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The Interfax news agency reported that a Russian Moskva cruiser would hold live-fire drills with other ships and military helicopters.

That report, which cited the Russian navy press service, came after the US navy sent its cutter Hamiltion to take part in exercises with NATO military partners.

Russia slams NATO over Black Sea presence

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Tuesday accused the alliance of stirring up the conflict.

"The actions of the US and NATO in the European region to increase the combat readiness of troops and strengthen their forward presence is contributing to an increase in military danger," he said in a statement.

The latest series of Russian drills follows navy maneuvers off Crimea last week, and Moscow's announcement it was restricting access to part of the Black Sea  to foreign warships.

Russian armored vehicles roll out of landing vessels following Crimea drills

Russia has performed a series of exercises in the region over the past weeks

But Ukraine and its allies have refrained from weighing in on whether Russia is serious about seeking to end the conflict.

"We cannot guarantee 100% that Russian troops won't turn around," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Tuesday.

The Reuters news agency quoted an unnamed US defense official as saying the trooop drawndown announcement alone was "insufficient to give us comfort." 

Relations between Moscow and Kyiv have been dire since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and backed a pro-Russian separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine.

The fighting there has cost some 14,000 lives despite a series of ceasefires.

jf/dj (Reuters, Interfax)