Ukraine and Turkey Launch Joint Naval Drill Amid Stand-Offs With Russia

Soldier stands on Turkish Black Sea ship
A soldier stands guard on the Turkish boat TCG Turgutreis in the port of Varna, March 9, 2015. NATO countries and Ukraine have carried out multiple drills around the Black Sea since Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014. Sasa Kavic/Reuters

Ukraine and Turkey's navies launched a joint military exercise on Monday, as Kiev and Ankara continue to grow closer in the face of their respective stand-offs with Russia.

Ukraine's relations with Russia have plummeted since Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to annex Crimea in 2014 and Russian-backed fighters moved in on eastern Ukraine. Meanwhile, Turkey had been complaining of repeated violations of its airspace by Russian military jets in Syria before it shot one down in November 2015, triggering a very public spat with the Kremlin.

According to a Facebook post by Ukraine's Navy, Ukraine and Turkey sent two frigates and a degaussing vessel into the Sea of Marmara on Monday to practice tactical maneuvering, anti-aircraft combat and communication.

"In accordance with the plan for joint activities between the Ukrainian Navy and the Navy of the Republic of Turkey, joint base training to prepare Ukrainian crews at Turkey's naval facilities is also scheduled," the statement added.

Last month, Ukrainian Member of Parliament Mustafa Dzhemilev said he had opened discussions with Turkey about potentially receiving arms from the NATO member.

And before that, at the end of January, Ukraine's Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin met his Turkish counterpart in Istanbul, where he told local newspaper the Daily Sabah that military cooperation with Turkey is something he was "definitely" interested in.

Klimkin's statement came less than a week after a meeting between Ukraine's national security and defense secretary Oleksandr Turchynov and Turkey's Head of the Secretariat for Defense Industries Іsmail Demir, where the two agreed that it is important to "unite the capabilities of [their] countries."