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USS Vella Gulf entering Black Sea

The guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf will enter the Black Sea on Friday, the latest U.S. warship to visit the region amid tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine.

The ship’s crew will train with allies and be available for security cooperation, according to Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren. Recent deployments to the Black Sea by other U.S. warships have included exercises and port visits with Romania, Bulgaria and Georgia.

The U.S. has increased its presence in the Black Sea in recent months in an effort to reassure allies since the March invasion of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula by Russian troops. The consecutive visits of U.S. warships also sends a message to Russia, which frowned upon U.S. operations in the Black Sea even before recent events and whose Black Sea Fleet is located in Sevastopol. Previous U.S. visits to the Black Sea were typically separated by months.

Recent deployments to the region have largely been quiet, although an unarmed Russian fighter jet buzzed the destroyer USS Donald Cook multiple times in international waters in the western Black Sea on April 12, according to the Pentagon.

“The ship’s presence in the Black Sea demonstrates the United States’ commitment to working closely with allies to enhance maritime security and stability,” Warren said of the Vella Gulf.

The frigate USS Taylor was the last ship in the region, leaving the Black Sea on March 12.

news@stripes.com

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