NATO escalating situation in Black Sea : Russia

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Moscow, Aug 23 (UNI) Russia today accused NATO of escalating the situation in the Black Sea.

The deputy chief of Russian Armed Forces' General Staff Col Gen Anatoly Nogovitsyn said the Navy was aware that NATO was strengthening its presence in the Blace Sea.

''The situation in the Black Sea is escalating. NATO is continuing to build up its naval presence in the area,'' Gen Nogovitsyn told mediapersons today.

Earlier yesterday, he expressed doubts that NATO vessels needed to be in the Black Sea and warned that Russia would respond swiftly to any provocations against its Black Sea Fleet.

The spokesman for the Russian Navy Captain Igor Dygalo yesterday said Russia would continue its operations to ensure the security of shipping to and from Georgia's separatist republic of Abkhazia.

''The Black Sea fleet continues to carry out its task of maritime traffic security patrols off the coast of Abkhazia,'' he said.

RIA Novosti news agency reported today, quoting a Turskish navy source in Istanbul that NATO has sent a Polish frigate and a US destroyer through the Bosporus to boost its presence in the Black Sea, where it is delivering humanitarian cargoes to Georgia. ''Two more NATO ships passed through the strait and entered the Black Sea last evening,'' the source told the agency.

The ORP General Pulaski and the USS McFaul joined two ships from Germany and Spain that entered the sea earlier today.

The Turkish navy source expected the NATO presence in the Black Sea to grow to about seven vessels.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has said his country has to move towards the NATO alliance.

''For our country it is the only way to protect our national security and sovereignty,'' Mr Yushchenko said in an interview to Britain's Times daily today.

He stressed that Ukraine needed to increase the military budget.

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