PENTAGON - A senior U.S. military leader says the Ukrainian Naval Force has severely decreased in size since Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.
U.S. Vice Admiral James Foggo told reporters Wednesday that Ukraine’s navy personnel alone has shrunk from about 17,000 to 5,000.
“They essentially lost about two-thirds of their people and two-thirds of their ships,” said Foggo, who commands the U.S. Sixth Fleet.
The Crimean peninsula's Sevastopol port was Ukraine's major naval hub prior to the region's annexation, Foggo explained. Afterward, the Ukrainian navy had to relocate its hub to Odessa.
Sea Breeze exercises
The U.S. Navy is co-hosting an annual regional military exercise in the Black Sea with the depleted Ukrainian Naval Force. Eleven other nations, including Germany, Turkey and Britain, also are participating in the Sea Breeze exercises.
Foggo told reporters he was pleased with the "professionalism” he'd seen from the Ukrainian navy, despite its setbacks.
“What they lost was capacity, they lost numbers,” he said.
The USS Donald Cook, a guided missile destroyer participating in the exercises, was greeted by a Russian ship when it entered the Black Sea.
Foggo said the Russians were “cordial” and welcomed the ship and its commander.
Sea Breeze participants are training ashore this week and will train at sea September 8-12.