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Russia to send 12 warships for exercise near coast of Syria

Special to WorldTribune.com

MOSCOW — Russia has been preparing for major naval exercises in the
eastern Mediterranean.

Officials said the Russian Navy has sent at least 12 warships for
exercises in the Mediterranean and the Gulf of Aden in January. They
said the exercises would include demonstrations of anti-submarine and air
defense operations near the coast of Syria.

A sailor stands in front of the Russian missile cruiser Moskva in the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Sevastopol. /Reuters

“The Russian Navy’s drills of this scope will be held for the first time
over the past few decades and are designed to improve control, ensure and practice multi-service force interaction of the fleets in the far-off
maritime zones,” the Russian Defense Ministry said on Jan. 2.

The ministry said the Russian warships were headed for the exercise
areas in the Mediterranean and Black seas. The statement said the exercises would seek to enhance marine landing skills as well as other combat missions.

“This will seek to practice the issues of establishing a multi-service
grouping of forces outside Russia, planning its use and conducting joint actions as part of a united naval grouping based on a common plan,” the ministry said.

Officials said the exercise would include a call at the Russian Navy
base in Tartous, Syria. They said the warships were also headed for
counter-piracy operations near the coast of Yemen.

“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],” an official said.

Russian media reports said the warships would relay commando units and
military equipment for Syria. The reports have been dismissed by the Russian
Defense Ministry.

Officials said at least four Russian Navy ships would arrive in Tartous
in January. They said two of the ships were identified as the missile
cruiser Moskva and the frigate Smetlivy.

“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,”
the official said.

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