Hydrographic survey ship HMS Echo arrived in Odessa on December 19, becoming the first Royal Navy ship to visit Ukraine since the Sea of Azov crisis from late November when Russian forces seized three Ukrainian Navy vessels and detained Ukrainian sailors.
Echo docked in Odessa after entering the Black Sea through the Bosporus on December 17. The 1936 Montreux Convention, which regulates the transit of warships in the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits, will allow Echo to stay in the Black Sea for a total of 21 days.
The deployment of HMS Echo to Ukraine was announced by UK defense secretary Gavin Williamson in November this year. Announcing the decision, Williamson said the survey ship would operate in Ukraine in early 2019. It was not specified whether Echo would be operating in the Sea of Azov.
Echo is expected to carry out hydrographic research and support amphibious training. Equipped 7.62-mm M134 machine guns, Oerlikon anti-aircraft guns and side-scan sonar, echo sounders, and sampling equipment, the ship can also serve as a mine countermeasures vessel and control ship.
The deployment of HMS Echo to Ukraine is part of a range of forthcoming deployments and exercises that will see the UK work more closely with Ukraine in response to what the UK defense secretary identified as Russia’s intensifying threats and aggression.
In January and February next year, UK defense forces training teams will deploy to Ukraine as part of an extension to the UK’s military training operation. The two sides have also agreed to work on supporting the development of military infrastructure.