March 2 (UPI) -- The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Ross conducted training exercises with Turkish, Bulgarian and Romanian navies while in the Black Sea, the U.S. Navy said.
The guided-missile destroyer entered the Black Sea on Feb. 23 and participated in separate drills with the three NATO partners. It departed the port of Varna, Bulgaria, on Saturday, after Cmdr. John D. John, the commanding officer of the USS Ross, visited with local leaders at Varna's city hall and naval headquarters.
"We appreciate the hospitality the Bulgarian navy and the Varna provided during our port visit," he said. "The training exercises we conducted facilitated our mutual commitment to strengthening relationships in the Black Sea region for purposes of collective defense."
The ship has been under the watchful eye of Russia, one of eight nations adjoining the Black Sea, since it arrived. The U.S. Navy regularly travels through Turkey's Bosporus Strait to enter the sea, consistent with international law.
"The Black Sea Fleet has deployed its capabilities to monitor the movement of the US Navy's Ross destroyer, which entered the Black Sea at 6:30 p.m. [on Feb. 23]," Russia's National Defense Management Center said in a statement.
The USS Ross, forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, is the first Navy ship to enter the sea this year.
In February, the vessel briefly joined Task Force 473, a carrier strike group of the French navy, in the Mediterranean Sea. The task force, led by the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, routinely welcomes ships from allied countries to participate in its long-term mission against the Islamic State.
The USS Ross similarly coordinated with the French carrier strike group in 2019.