Two reconnaissance vessels, Italian and French, have been said to enter the Black Sea on June 15 and 16. According to a source with the Russian Navy, the Italian Elettra and the French Dupuy de Lome are expected to replace the Surcouf (French Frigate) and the USS Vella Gulf, which are currently in the region. The source added that Elettra was expected first (June 15) whilst Dupuy de Lome would arrive a day later.
Today USS Vella Gulf is expected to return to the Mediterranean. Surcouf is due to leave the Black Sea on Tuesday (June 17).
"NATO shifts the emphasis on gathering intelligence, replacing two warships in the Black Sea with two reconnaissance vessels," said the naval source.
The Dupuy de Lome and the Elettra have been dispatched close to Crimea, the Black Sea's northern part. A Russian naval official commented:
"This does not raise our concerns in the least. Such actions by NATO ships enable Russia to test various monitoring systems of the surface picture, among other things."
The Russian Navy confirmed that Wodnik, a Polish training vessel, is expected to enter the Black Sea on June 24 but its presence has no relevance to the mission of NATO reconnaissance vessels and warships.
The Dupuy de Lome left the Black Sea on May 29. It can catch satellite-based communication, telephone conversations and e-mail traffic.
The Elettra is equipped with an unmanned aerial vehicle and more than 25 electronic and acoustic intelligence systems.
The International Montreux Convention says that warships from states not bordering the Black Sea are permitted to stay in its water no longer than 21 days. USS Vella Gulf entered the Black Sea on 23rd May, Surcouf on 28th May.