Russia on Thursday sharply criticized the multinational naval exercise Sea Breeze in the Black Sea, calling it “openly anti-Russian.”

“This is, of course, a provocative muscle flexing. The military deployment of such a scale near Russian territory, with openly anti-Russian implications, evokes an appropriate reaction from us,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said at a news conference in Moscow.

Zakharova accused the US and its allies of turning the Black Sea into a zone of military standoff.

“The Black Sea, in fact, is being systematically turned by Washington and its allies from a space of cooperation … into a zone of military standoff. This is being done intentionally in order to make another region of the world unstable under the US’ guidance,” she said.

About the recent incidents with the British and Dutch ships she said: “Given that the (Dutch frigate) Evertsen incident took place a day after the incident with the British destroyer Defender … The conclusion is that the dangerous maneuvering of the Dutch frigate was also a deliberate provocation.”

On June 23, the Russian Defense Ministry said the country’s border guards stopped a British Royal Navy destroyer — HMS Defender — that Russia said was violating its waters.

According to the ministry, the Defender entered Russian territorial waters near Cape Fiolent in the Black Sea and did not respond to warnings of the Russian coastal forces, it only turned back when warning shots were fired.

The British Defense Ministry rejected the Russian claims that warning shots were fired at one of its vessels in the Black Sea, saying the Royal Navy ship was conducting “innocent passage through Ukrainian territorial waters in accordance with international law.”

The 2021 Sea Breeze multinational military exercises have been held on the territory of Ukraine since 1997. This year’s drill takes place from June 28 to July 10.

Asked about the situation in Afghanistan, Zakharova said the recent escalation in the country may worsen the humanitarian situation in the country.

“The increase in military tension in Afghanistan’s provinces bordering the Central Asian nations may lead to a humanitarian crisis and an upsurge in the number of refugees in the region, which certainly concerns us,” she said.​​​​​​​

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