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Russian Cruiser To Test Weapons In Crowded Black Sea

The "Moskva" returning to Sevastopol on August 23
MOSCOW -- Russia's flagship cruiser has reentered the Black Sea for weapons tests hours after the Russian military complained about the presence of U.S. and other NATO naval ships near the Georgian coast.

The "Moskva" had led a battle group of Russian naval vessels stationed off the coastline of Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia during Russia's recent conflict with Georgia and sank smaller Georgian craft.

The assistant to the Russian Navy's commander in chief told Russian news agencies the cruiser had put to sea again two days after returning to its base at the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol.

"'Moskva' has today departed toward the Black Sea Fleet's naval training range to check its radio-controlled weapons and onboard communications systems," Captain Igor Dygalo was quoted as saying by Interfax.

The Russian Navy's press office was unable to confirm his comments when contacted by Reuters.

The presence of so many ships from NATO countries earlier drew the ire of a Russian military spokesman during a daily media briefing on the conflict.

"The fact that there are nine Western warships in the Black Sea cannot but be a cause for concern. They include two U.S. warships, one each from Spain and Poland, and four from Turkey," Anatoly Nogovitsyn, the deputy chief of the Russian military's General Staff, said.

On August 24, the U.S. guided missile destroyer "USS McFaul" arrived with aid including camp beds, bedding, tents, and mobile kitchen units, U.S Defense Department spokesman Bryan. Whitman said.

Separately, the U.S. Coast Guard cutter "Dallas" has been dispatched with aid, while a third vessel, the navy command ship "USS Mount Whitney," is being loaded in Italy with humanitarian supplies for Georgia, he said.

The NATO ships in the Black Sea are carrying more than 100 Tomahawk cruise missiles, with more than 50 onboard the "McFaul" alone that could hit ground targets, Russia's RIA Novosti news agency reported, citing unnamed sources in Russian military intelligence.