HMS Elizabeth leads 19 NATO warships in Black Sea show of strength to Putin.

VLADMIR Putin was sent a stark message by British forces after HMS Queen Elizabeth led a series of war games ahead of a trip to the Black Sea.

The huge £3 billion aircraft carrier was joined in Portugal by 19 NATO warships from the US and eight other allied nations for operation Steadfast Defender on Friday.

The exercise, which is expected to last until June 22, included submarines, destroyers and frigates and was backed by immense aerial support from the RAF's brand new F-35B Lightning stealth fighters.

It aims to test the Alliance’s readiness and military mobility, with forces deploying across land and sea.

Commodore Steve Moorhouse, the ship's commanding officer and captain, called it "a hugely powerful statement."

"It shows that we are a global navy and wanting to be back out there,"he said.

His words echoed a new show of strength as Putin prepares to meet Joe Biden in showdown talks later this month.

In April, it was reported that Putin had blocked all foreign warships from reaching the country via the Black Sea.

It materialised as he piled more troops on the border for military drills as he threatened warfare.

Moscow closed part of the Kerch Strait - which separates Crimea in the west from Russia in the east - after US President Biden threatened to send two Navy battleships to the region but then called them off.

The Kremlin had earlier warned US warships to stay well away from the region “for their own good”, calling their potential deployment in the Black Sea a provocation.

Nato chiefs- who were ones of those critical - have since launched a massive spending initiative after Russia annexed the Crimea from Ukraine in 2018 with the aim of detering Putin from incurring any further into Europe.

However, they insisted that the new military exercises involving 9000 troops in Portugal are not aimed at Russia specifically.

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HMS Elizabeth leads 19 NATO warships & 5,000 troops in Black Sea military exercise in show of strength against Putin
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