A Canadian frigate with 250 sailors is joining a U.S.-Ukraine training exercise in the Black Sea, bringing Canada in closer proximity to the conflict between Moscow and Kiev.
The operation, while planned some time ago, is certain to escalate tensions with Russia.
HMCS Toronto, which is part of NATO’s standing maritime group, will enter the Black Sea on Sept. 6 for the Operation Sea Breeze exercise that runs Sept. 8 to 10.
HMCS Toronto has been deployed to the Mediterranean for months as part of Canada’s contribution to the NATO reassurance mission meant to assuage jittery allies who are nervous about Russia’s grander plans in Europe after it invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea this spring.
It will join American and Ukrainian vessels as well as ships from France, Spain, Romania and Turkey.
U.S. Navy destroyer USS Ross, France’s Commandant Birot ship, Spanish frigate Almirante Juan de Borbon are three of other ships taking part, ITAR-TASS reported this week.
Elsewhere in the region, 13 Canadian soldiers are joining other nations in a training exercise in Ukraine that starts in mid-September. Operation Rapid Trident has taken place for years but this is the first time NATO soldiers have set foot in Ukraine since it was beset by crisis in late 2013.