A U.S. guided missile cruiser has left the Black Sea on Tuesday, leaving a collection of NATO ships to maintain an ongoing presence mission following Russia’s seizure of the Crimea region from Ukraine.
USS Vella Gulf (CG-72) left the Black Sea on Tuesday following the Bulgarian led exercise, Breeze 2014, Navy officials told USNI News on Wednesday.
“Exercise Breeze was an outstanding opportunity for Vella Gulf to collaborate with our NATO allies on a broad range of training exercises across all warfare areas,” said Vella Gulf’s skipper Capt. Robert Katz in a July 11 statement.
The departure of the cruiser leaves no American ship in the Black Sea but the numbers of NATO ships have been on the rise since March.
Ahead of Vella Gulf’s departure, there were nine NATO ships in the Black Sea on July 9, according to Russian state news service RIA Novosti.
Part of the contingent included Italian Artigliere-class frgate ITS Aviere (F 583), Italian Gaeta-class minesweeper ITS Rimini (M 5561), Turkish minesweeper TCG Akçay (M 270) and U.K. Royal Navy Minesweeper HMS Chiddingfold (M37).
The ships are part of NATO’s rotational Mine Counter-Measures Group TWO (SNMCMG2) which participated in the Breeze 2014 exercise.
In addition to the minesweepers, there are at least another NATO frigate and two intelligence ships, according to the Russian press.
Other ships in the region aren’t related to the most recent exercise include, French La Fayette-class frigate Surcouf (F711), French signals intelligence ship Dupuy de Lôme (A759), and Italian signals intelligence ship ITS Elettra (A 5340).
All warship from countries without a coast on the Black Sea operate under the 1936 Montreux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits.
Montreux rules call for foreign warships to depart the Black Sea after 21 days.