Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
Christopher Anderson, an aide to former Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, testified that the White House cancelled a Navy freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) in the Black Sea after President Donald Trump complained to then-national security advisor John Bolton about a CNN report that framed the operation as a counter to Russia, Politico reports.
Anderson's testimony, the news report in question came from CNN and characterized the operation as antagonistic toward Russia. Anderson testified that Trump called Bolton at home to complain about the article, and the operation was later canceled at the behest of the White House, Anderson said.
“In January, there was an effort to get a routine freedom-of-navigation operation into the Black Sea,” Anderson testified. “There was a freedom-of-navigation operation for the Navy. So we — we, the U..S government — notified the
Turkish government that there was this intent.”
While later in his testimony Anderson places the report in January, details from his testimony match
this story from early December 2018, headlined “U.S. makes preparations to sail warship into the Black Sea amid Russia-Ukraine tensions.”
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Roosevelt and USS Carney. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Fred Gray IV)
Anderson said the White House asked the
Navy to cancel the FONOP because the report portrayed the operation as a move to counter Russia, which has increased its naval presence there since annexing Crimea in 2014. In November 2018, its forces attacked Ukrainian assets transiting the Kerch Strait, which connects the Black Sea with the Azov Sea. Russia seized three Ukrainian ships and held 24 Ukrainian service members captive.
“We met with Ambassador Bolton and discussed this, and he made it clear that the president had called him to complain about that news report. And that may have just been that he was surprised,” Anderson said.
“We don't — I can't speculate as to why, but that, that operation was canceled, but then we were able to get a second one for later in February. And we had an Arleigh-class destroyer arrive in Odessa on the fifth anniversary of the Crimea invasion.”
Insider reached out to the White House and the US Navy's 6th Fleet, which conducts operations in Europe, but did not receive a response by press time.
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