A visit by Royal Navy destroyer HMS Duncan to the Ukrainian port of Odessa on July 24 marked the first UK warship visit to Ukraine in eight years.
The Portsmouth-based destroyer led a NATO task group into the Ukrainian port at the start of a three-day visit ahead of exercises with the host nation’s warships.
The force was given a berth in the cruise liner terminal and welcomed by Ukrainian leaders, including the head of the country’s Navy, Vice-Admiral Ihor Voronchenko.
The Type 45 destroyer is leading NATO’s Standing Maritime Naval Group 2 (SNMG2), providing reassurance and deterrence in the Black Sea, as well as commanding NATO’s counter migration activity in the Aegean.
For the next 12 months, the Royal Navy is commanding two of the four NATO Standing Naval Forces, demonstrating the UK’s commitment to and leadership within the alliance.
“HMS Duncan’s visit to Odessa this week is a symbol of our unwavering support to our Ukrainian friends in the face of Russian belligerence and aggression,” UK defence secretary Michael Fallon said. “We are also stepping up our work with NATO this year, leading half of NATO’s standing maritime forces, one of the four enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroups and have deployed Typhoon fast jets to Romania, in a tangible demonstration of our commitment to European security.”
As well as the usual receptions and demonstrations and tours, including a chance for Odessans to look around the visiting warships, cultural visits have been lined up so the sailors can sample one of the grandest and most historic cities in the Ukraine.
Commodore James Morley, the Commander of SNMG2, said: “It is a privilege to lead a NATO task group in to the port of Odessa. HMS Duncan, the newest of the Royal Navy’s Type 45 Destroyers and the Turkish frigate TCG Yildirim have received a very warm welcome.”
The NATO group – Duncan, plus Turkey’s TCG Yildirim and Romanian frigate RS Regele Ferdinand (the former Type 22 HMS Coventry) – sailed into Odessa having just been working with the Bulgarian Navy for its annual Black Sea exercise, Breeze, which saw some of the participants ‘hunting’ the Turkish diesel submarine Preveze.
The 200ft-long silent hunter proved a formidable foe as the Black Sea offers some of the most challenging anti-submarine warfare conditions on the Seven Seas. It’s over two kilometres deep in places and water temperature and salinity make it tricky for sonar to locate boats.
As flagship of NATO’s Standing Maritime Group 2, Duncan co-ordinated their efforts as its staff – some drawn from Black Sea navies – shared their experience and first-hand knowledge of local conditions.
With the hunt concluded, the NATO group made its way from Varna to Odessa – a journey of 300 miles – and was buzzed by RAF Typhoon jets.
The Eurofighters from No.3 Squadron have traded Coningsby for Constanța in Romania to support the Balkan country’s air policing mission over the Black Sea.
Once the Odessa visit is over, the task group will sail in company with ships of the Ukrainian Navy for joint training to strengthen security at sea and in the region.