Delays, protests mar U.S. work in Ukraine
June 7, 2006
The Black Sea has been looking pretty dark for the crew of a Military Sealift Command ship and a unit of Marine reservists who have faced everything from customs delays to large groups of protesters in their ongoing visit to Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.
The ship’s supplies and Marines, part of a construction and engineering unit, were invited to Ukraine by the country’s government to assist with the upgrading of a training facility at Staryy Krym, according to a statement on the U.S. Embassy in Kiev’s Web site.
The facilities will be part of this summer’s exercise, Sea Breeze, which has been run since the 1990s and is co-hosted by the U.S. and Ukraine.
On May 27, the Military Sealift Command chartered ship Advantage pulled into the port of Fedosiva and unloaded its cargo of construction material and equipment as well as a small contingent of Marines.
While the Advantage has since left the port, the cargo still hasn’t cleared customs as of Tuesday afternoon, according to Lt. Corey Barker of the U.S. European Command.
Another group of Marines flying into the Simferopol airport Sunday were met by a large group of anti-NATO protesters. The Marines were moved by government officials to a secured berthing area to wait out the protesters.
“They were well fed and keeping a low profile,” Barker said.
Since then, he wrote in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes, the two groups of Marines have been reunited, bringing their total number to about 200.
While the Marines will be working in preparing facilities for the exercise, they will not take part in Sea Breeze, which kicks off July 18 and runs through Aug. 2.
The exercise, according to the Partnership for Peace Information Management System, will focus on operating maritime and ground forces together for maritime security and peace support operations.
U.S. forces, according to the site, will include Army National Guard and Marine Corps ground forces aboard an unnamed Navy ship.