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NATO to Keep Monitoring Black Sea Following Ukraine’s Kerch Strait Provocation

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NATO will “continue to assess its presence in the Black Sea region”, where the alliance’s ships are carrying out routine patrols and drills, NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu was quoted by Turkey’s Anadolu news agency as saying.

She said that “there is already a lot of NATO in the Black Sea” and that its vessels spent 120 days in the area this year, compared to 80 in 2017.

“Several allies conduct NATO air policing in the region, and allies also conduct regular reconnaissance flights over the Black Sea. We also have a Romanian-led multinational brigade based in Craiova. […] Three NATO members — Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey — are littoral states, with their own national capabilities deployed in the Black Sea region,” Lungescu added.

Her remarks came after the Russian President’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated that the Kremlin considers Poroshenko’s request that NATO deploy its ships to the Sea of Azov to be an aspect of his strategy of provoking Russia in order to gain support in the run up to next year’s Ukrainian elections.

According to Peskov, the bottom line lies in “the electoral and domestic political interests of President Poroshenko”.

The statement followed Poroshenko’s interview with the German tabloid Bild, during which he said that Kiev hopes that NATO will send its ships to the area in the Kerch Strait where three Ukrainian vessels were seized by Russia after entering Russian territorial waters on November 25.

UK Admiral Lord Alan West, for his part, warned that if NATO makes such a move, it may fuel tensions in the region in the aftermath of the incident in the Kerch Strait.

“You have to think very carefully about deploying forces close to Russia. If we send a huge NATO force there it will be seen as an aggressive posture – but we could have a limited number of ships looking after freedom of navigation,” he pointed out.

Last Sunday, two Ukrainian frigates, the Berdyansk and the Nikopol, as well as the Yany Kapu, a tugboat, illegally entered Russian territorial waters as they sailed toward the Kerch Strait, the entrance to the Sea of Azov. The Ukrainian vessels were seized by Russia after failing to respond to a demand to stop.

Moscow described the incident as a clear provocation in violation of Articles 19 and 21 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and promised to suppress any attempts to challenge its territorial integrity.

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Man Detained in Paris After Tearing Down Flag From French Parliament Building

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A man was detained by gendarmes in Paris after he climbed the wall of the National Assembly’s building and removed a tricolour flag, Le Parisien reports.

According to Le Parisien, the gendarmes of the Republican Guard spotted a man on CCTV as he was climbing the wall of the National Assembly’s building to remove a tricolour flag. When the thief climbed down, they apprehended him and took the flag.

According to the paper, the thief was a 23-year-old man who was drunk at the time of the incident, the newspaper reported. He was handed over to the police and placed in a drunk tank.

The man lives in the 15th arrondissement in the southwest of Paris and was known to the police as a repeat offender.

The National Assembly is the lower house of the French parliament. It is located at the Palais Bourbon in the city’s 7th arrondissement.

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‘Zero truth’: Trump says Iran’s Claim it Captured CIA Spies is ‘Totally False’

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The Report of Iran capturing CIA spies is totally false. Zero truth. Just more lies and propaganda (like their shot down drone) put out by a Religious Regime that is Badly Failing and has no idea what to do. Their Economy is dead, and will get much worse. Iran is a total mess!

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UK to Send Nuclear Sub, Commandos to the Gulf After Tanker Seizure by Iran

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Britain’s Royal Navy is beefing up its military presence in the Persian Gulf with a nuclear-powered submarine and maritime forces, UK media report. 

A 7,400-tonne Astute-class nuclear-powered submarine, equipped with cruise missiles and heavy torpedoes, will be assigned a solely defensive role, military sources told the Daily Express tabloid. It is expected to intercept communications between Iranian servicemen and report them back to naval headquarters in the UK.

“We are sending a boat – it may well already be heading for the region,” a Royal Navy insider was quoted as saying. “Its role is a covert intelligence posture, simply gathering information to support the planned escort convoys of tankers.”

According to a separate report in The Sun, the Navy will also dispatch marines from 42 Commando, M Company. The HMS Duncan, a type 45 air-defence destroyer, was dispatched to the Gulf earlier this month to assist Britain’s only warship operating there, the Type 23 HMS frigate Montrose, based in Bahrain.

The RFA Wave Knight supply tanker, currently stationed in Gibraltar, will transit to the region in August, while the HMS Kent frigate will be deployed there in September.

The Navy also has four mine hunters and a landing ship dock committed to the area. “We have the ability to send more ships but they will take weeks so the Marines are a perfect fit in the short term,” a military insider told The Sun.

“The men have been told they could be deployed on to commercial vessels. Tankers are also now likely to travel in convoy and shipping will be protected. But our main brief is not to escalate the situation — and provide a deterrent.”

UK defence officials are yet to commend on the reports, but they typically stay mum about such deployments. It comes as Theresa May is holding an emergency meeting on Monday, focused on ways to maintain security of shipping in the Persian Gulf.

The authorities have advised British ships to temporarily avoid the Strait of Hormuz, after Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps impounded two tankers on Friday. One of the vessels was released, while the other was taken to a port in southern Iran pending an investigation.

Tehran claimed that the tanker ignored the distress calls of an Iranian fishing boat and collided with it. At the same time, Tehran officials indicated that the seizure came as a tit-for-tat response following the detention of a tanker allegedly transporting Iranian oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions.

UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he had spoken to his Iranian counterpart to voice his “extreme disappointment”, while London may soon move to hit Iran with a series of sanctions.

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