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Romanian Navy soldiers walk towards Queen Mary frigate in the port of Constanta, Romania, on June 21, 2022. Photo for illustrative purposes. (Andreea Campeanu/Getty Images)
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A multi-national NATO naval exercise in the Black Sea and Danube River delta, consisting of contributing maritime forces from 12 different alliance members and other partners, began on April 8, Romanian media reported.

The exercise, named Sea Shield 24, is the second time the naval drill has been held, with the first occurring in 2015. The Black Sea has been a crucial theater of Russia's full-scale war against Ukraine, and the Danube River has emerged as an important alternative transit route in response to the Russian naval presence in the sea.

Hundreds of mines have been spread throughout the Black Sea since the beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion in February 2022. Several civilian ships and navy ships belonging to countries not party to the war have struck sea mines since the beginning of the full-scale invasion.

According to a press release by the Romanian navy, the exercise will involve more than 2,000 soldiers, 27 ships, 17 planes, and other military-technical equipment.

It will be "the most complex event conducted by the Romanian Naval Forces," the press release said.

Among the participants will be Romania, the U.S., the U.K., Bulgaria, France, Turkey, and Poland, as well as non-NATO members Georgia and Moldova.

The goal of the exercise is to combat "illegal sea and river operations, maritime and river control, search and rescue at sea, assisting a vessel in distress, and securing critical infrastructure."

It will extend until April 21.

NATO members Turkey, Romania, and Bulgaria announced in January 2024 that they had signed a memorandum of understanding on a joint mine-clearing task force in the Black Sea, but it was not clear when it would begin.

Romania says it found possible drone fragments on its territory following Russian attack on Ukraine
It was not the first time that wreckage of drones, likely from Russia, has been found on Romanian territory.
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