Russia's Putin attends Black Sea drills by the Russian navy

Russia's Putin attends Black Sea drills by the Russian navy

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MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday watched a naval exercise involving multiple missile launches in the Black Sea.

The Kremlin said that Putin watched the maneuvers from the Marshal Ustinov missile cruiser. The navy said the drills involved warships from Russia's Black Sea Fleet along with several ships from its Northern Fleet.

The Russian naval maneuvers come amid heightened U.S.-Iran tensions after the U.S. strike last week that killed Iran’s most powerful military commander.

As part of the Black Sea drills, MiG-31 fighter jets launched Kinzhal hypersonic missiles at practice land targets. Navy ships performed several launches of Kalibr cruise missiles and other weapons.

More than 30 warships and 39 aircraft, including several Tu-95 strategic bombers, took part in the exercise.

Putin also met with officers from the Marshal Ustinov cruiser, which is part of the Northern Fleet based in the Arctic port of Severomorsk. The ship has been on a long mission that included a deployment to the eastern Mediterranean as part of Russia's campaign in Syria.

The Russian leader also took part in a meeting with military officials in Sevastopol in Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

“The navy always has been a key component of national defense,” Putin said. “We will maintain and strengthen our nation's status as a key naval power.”

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