US conducts 'extraordinary flight' over Ukraine after Russian Federation ship seizure

Blanche Robertson
December 7, 2018

The Open Skies Treaty allows signatory states to gather information about the military activities of other member countries. In this case, the Ukrainian military requested a flight and the USA agreed to conduct it over an uncontested portion of Ukraine territory, according to Eric Pahon, a Pentagon spokesman.

Pahon said this was the first "extraordinary" Open Skies flight since 2014 in response to Russia's annexation of Crimea.

A U.S. Navy destroyer sailed through waters claimed by Russian Federation in the Sea of Japan on Wednesday, challenging Moscow's ownership of the area for the first time since the end of the Cold War. The transit would be another signal of military support for Ukraine.

"They come here just like we go there", a USA official told ABC News at the time. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss future ship movements.

United States ships can only be in the Black Sea for 21 days under the Montreux Convention, the broadcaster said.

On November 25, Russian Federation and Ukraine had a naval clash near Kerch Strait. Since then, Washington has sought to show its support for Ukraine while condemning Russian actions.

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The Pentagon said the Ukrainian military had requested the flight, which was on an OC-135 surveillance plane and had observers from the US, Canada, Germany, France, Britain, Romania and Ukraine aboard.

The Ukrainian side says that the presentation was important in the context of consideration of a draft resolution entitled: "The problem of militarization of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol (Ukraine) and parts of the Black and Azov Seas" at a UN General Assembly meeting on December 17, 2018.

The Pentagon condemned Russia's actions, adding the timing of the flight was intended "to reaffirm US commitment to Ukraine and other partner nations" and that the U.S.is "resolute" in its support of the security of European nations.

A total of 25 USA military personnel - eight Defense Threat Reduction Agency personnel and a 17-person aircrew from the 55th Wing out of Offut Air Force Base, Nebraska - participated in Thursday's flight.

The military added that "Russia's unprovoked attack" on Ukrainian ships near the Kerch Strait on November 25 is "a risky escalation in a pattern of increasingly provocative and threatening activity".

The United States has begun making preparations to sail a warship into the Black Sea amid Russia-Ukraine tensions, CNN has reported.

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