With relations between Russia and the US remaining strained over Georgia the Black Sea is once again a focal point of tension. American warships have begun delivering aid to Georgia through the port of Poti, further angering Moscow.
Washington says the guided missile destroyer that sailed into the port was carrying blankets and baby food. But Russia has denounced the presence of NATO vessels in the Black Sea, saying it will only further destabilise the region.
And there was evidence of tensions elsewhere in the Black Sea when Russian ships returned from Georgia to the Ukrainian port of Sevastapol. Moscow leases its naval base there from Ukraine, which backed Georgia in the conflict.
While the returning sailors were hailed by ethnic Russians Ukrainians protestors made their feelings clear with their own demonstration.
The lease is due to run out in 2017 and Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has said it will not be renewed. This drew an angry response from Moscow, which is already furious at Ukraine’s ambition to join NATO.
Yushchenko has also announced tougher rules on Russian naval movements from the base. Some analysts believe such moves could make Ukraine the next target of Russia’s efforts to reassert its influence in the region.
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