A ship carrying two refitted former US Coast Guard patrol boats designed to beef up the Ukrainian Navy transited the Dardanelles strait on Saturday days after Ukraine said it feared Russia might be preparing an attack on it.
“We’re not sure exactly what Mr. Putin is up to,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Wednesday. A week earlier, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “We don’t have clarity into Moscow’s intentions, but we do know its playbook.”
The ship carrying the two Island-class patrol boats departed Baltimore for the Ukrainian port of Odessa on Nov. 8. Ukrainian sailors have already undergone extensive training on the vessels in the United States. Ukraine got two similar vessels in 2019.
The two new boats are part of a security package to Ukraine worth over $2.5 billion since 2014, the year when Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula and Russian-backed separatists seized a swath of eastern Ukraine, the US embassy in Kyiv says.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Saturday his country has real concerns, widely shared with partners in Europe, over Russian activities at the Ukrainian border, after Ukraine said it feared Russia might be preparing an attack.
Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and an ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine between Kyiv and Russian-backed rebels in the region known as Donbas has left an estimated 14,000 dead. Now, Ukraine says an estimated 90,000 Russian troops have massed near the border.
The buildup could be a prelude to another Russian invasion. Speaking to Ukraine’s foreign minister this month, Blinken said Putin’s “playbook” was for Russia to build up forces near the border and then invade, “claiming falsely that it was provoked.”