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Russia increases military presence in Black Sea amid rising Ukraine tensions

Russia increased its military presence in the Black Sea, sending two warships to the area and 15 smaller ships amid tensions with Ukraine. 

The military maneuvers, reported by Reuters, come as Russia has built up its military presence along its border with Ukraine and increased fighting in eastern Ukraine with pro-Russian separatists.

The deployments are the latest sign of escalation with the U.S. over Ukraine.

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The U.S. slapped a slew of sanctions on Russia over its malign behavior this week, including election meddling and actions in Ukraine. The U.S. government also expelled 10 Russian diplomats.

Moscow responded in kind, kicking 10 Americans out of Russia.

“There are elements of this new EO [executive order] that give us additional authorities that we are not exercising today,” a senior U.S. official said Thursday, warning of extra steps the White House could take.

“We would prefer not to have to deploy these authorities, but the scope and potential to cause meaningful impact should send a clear signal that continued harmful activities, including further election interference, further malicious cyber activities are unacceptable, and we are prepared going forward to impose substantial and lasting costs if this behavior continues,” the official added.

Beyond pressure from the U.S., the United Kingdom has also summoned the Russian ambassador, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is set to meet with the leaders of France and Germany to discuss the latest Russian military moves.