US warships steaming towards the Black Sea have reportedly turned back after Russia warned Joe Biden’s military to steer clear of the region.
Turkish diplomatic sources said the passage of the first American ship through the Bosphorus – due to happen on Wednesday – did not take place.
The Anadolu state news agency said both deployments have now been scrapped with Turkey reporting it has not yet been informed of any rescheduling.
The Kremlin had earlier warned US warships to stay well away from Crimea “for their own good”, calling their deployment in the Black Sea a provocation designed to test Russian nerves.
“The United States is our adversary and does everything it can to undermine Russia’s position on the world stage,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was cited as saying by Russian news agencies.
“We do not see any other elements in their approach. Those are our conclusions.”
Last week Turkey announced that it had been told two US warships “will pass toward the Black Sea” and remain in the region until May 4.
There was no confirmation from Washington either of the planned deployments or of their cancellation, say reports from AFP.
Washington is required to give Turkey at least 15 days notice before sending warships through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits under the terms of the 1936 Montreux Convention.
The treaty’s terms allow foreign warships to stay in the Black Sea for up to 21 days.
US Navy ships routinely operate in the region in support of Ukraine, which has been fighting Russian-backed forces in its east since a 2014 revolution ousted the pro-Moscow leader in Kiev.
Last week’s announcement of a US deployment of warships came as tensions between Moscow and Kiev have risen due to a build-up of Russian troops at the Ukraine border.
Earlier Russia announced another 15 of its warships will sail into the Black Sea amid rising tensions with the US over Ukraine.
It is the latest military muscle flex by Vladimir Putin as he was accused of plotting an attack as he mobilised tens of thousands of troops.
The 15 vessels will sail through a network of canals, rivers and waterways as they make their way from the Caspian Sea via the Sea of Azov to the Black Sea.
This included frigate Admiral Makarov, small missile ships Graivoron and Vyshny Volochek, air-cushion missile ship Samum, minesweeper Ivan Golubets, as well as large landing ships.
And a further three Russian warships, the Minsk, the Kaliningrad and the Korolyev, have believed to have set sail from the Baltic heading for the Black Sea.
Russia is also known to be moving landing ships from the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea for the first time since the end of the Soviet era.
Tensions are rising in the region as it is feared Putin may be preparing for another land grab from Ukraine as he masses troops along eastern border with the former Soviet state.
The Russian leader has reportedly now moved tens of thousands of troops and heavy military equipment to the border with Ukraine, prompting a phone call from President Biden to tell the Russian leader to stand down.
The latest on-the-ground videos appear to show heavy armaments on the move in Krasnodar region and naval vessels on the Don River as the Ukraine crisis becomes increasingly hostile.
A veteran independent Russian defence analyst has claimed Putin may have ordered the mobilisation of “more than half a million” troops – involving forces from the Pacific to the Baltic.
Asked if Russia was “on the doorstep of war”, Pavel Felgenhauer told Ekho Moscow radio: “Practically, we are.”
He added: “An unprecedented mobilisation of the Russian armed forces is taking place. This has not happened either since 1973, or since 1962.
“The exact number of people participating is not officially indicated. Apparently more than half a million.”
Felgenhauer claimed that the main Russian-speaking cities in Ukraine “will be occupied in the course of a victorious and fleeting blitzkrieg”.
Blitzkrieg is a method of warfare which leads to a quick victory and limits the loss of soldiers and artillery.
It comes after Putin snubbed Biden’s call for peace talks as fears of war mount over Russia’s build-up of troops at the Ukrainian border.
The US president urged Putin to ease mounting tensions with neighbouring Ukraine during a phone call with the Russian leader.
Biden spoke of his “unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
And he proposed a summit meeting “in the coming months” to “discuss the full range of issues facing the United States and Russia”.
But the Kremlin said it was “premature” to talk about a possible meeting.
Although Russia said it would “continue dialogue” with the United States, it declined the offer for a first summit with Biden.
Meanwhile, Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of Russian state-run outlets RT and Sputnik claimed a conflict is now inevitable between the US and Russia amid the crisis.
She said: “In a conventional war, we could defeat Ukraine in two days. But it will be another kind of war.
“We’ll do it, and then the US will respond by turning off power to the Russian city Voronezh.”
It comes as British forces are helping Ukraine monitor Russia’s huge military build-up, reports the Mirror.
A small team of UK special forces has been deployed to the region along with specialist communications troops from a Royal Signals detachment and a RAF spy plane.
This squadron of RAF Typhoons will be armed with pave way bombs and brimstone missiles will also be deployed to Romania’s Black Sea coast.
The backing follows NATO’s “unwavering support” for the western military alliance’s with Ukraine after they previously warned Moscow not to push its troop buildup along Russia’s border with the neighbouring country.
Yet this latest move signals their intent of a state that only last week claimed on TV whether it would soon be able to “deNazify” Ukraine.
In a prime-time Russian state TV broadcast on Sunday evening, Putin ‘propagandist’ Dmitry Kiselyovc laimed Europe was “one step away from war.”