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Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Russian Warships Gather in Mediterranean for Drills

Warships Gather in Mediterranean for Drills

RIA Novosti 19:30 25/12/2012
http://en.rian.ru/military_news/20121225/178396571.html

MOSCOW, December 25 (RIA Novosti) - About a dozen Russian warships are
converging on the Mediterranean and the Gulf of Aden as part of a
large-scale strategic exercise, a high-ranking representative the General
Staff of Russia’s Armed Forces said on Tuesday.

“This part of the world’s oceans is very important from the point of view of
Russia’s geopolitical interests, including the fact that the Russian Navy
has a logistical base here [in Syria],” he said.

The warships will conduct air-defense, anti-ship and anti-submarine drills
and call at some foreign ports, including Tartus in Syria, he said.

He declined to specify whether the large landing ships were carrying
military equipment for Syria.

“The main aim of sending the ships to the Mediterranean is to accomplish the
missions set by the navy command, conduct exercises and show the flag,” he
said.

On Monday, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov dismissed media
reports there were commando units and military equipment for Syria on board
some of the warships.

A naval task force from Russia’s Northern Fleet left the Severomorsk base
last Wednesday and set course for the Horn of Africa on a new anti-piracy
mission, the Defense Ministry said.

It includes the large antisubmarine ship Severomorsk, the salvage tug Altai,
and the tanker Dubna, as well as a contingent of naval infantry subunits.
The force will travel the length of the Mediterranean, pass through the Suez
Canal and relieve the Pacific Fleet task force that has been there on an
anti-piracy mission since November.

A Baltic Fleet task force set sail last Tuesday for the eastern
Mediterranean where it will relieve a group of Black Sea warships. The force
includes the frigate Yaroslav Mudry, the large landing ships Kaliningrad and
Alexander Shabalin, the salvage tug SB-921 and the tanker Lena.

The new anti-piracy mission is expected to reach the region by mid-January.

Russia keeps a naval task force in the Gulf of Aden as part of the
international effort to fight piracy off the Somali coast.

On Monday, large landing ships Azov and Nikolai Filchenkov from Russia’s
Black Sea Fleet left Novorossiysk for the Syrian port of Tartus. The ships
are carrying naval infantry units for protection during the voyage. They are
expected to join the Black Sea Fleet task force comprising the missile
cruiser Moskva and the frigate Smetlivy in the Aegean Sea on December 28
before heading to Tartus.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich confirmed on Monday that
Russia has a contingency plan for evacuation of Russian citizens from Syria
if necessary.

The conflict between Bashar al-Assad regime and opposition forces in Syria
has claimed the lives of over 30,000 people since March 2011, according to
UN figures.

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