Russia’s Navy to Engage in Exercises Near Israel

  Russian anti-submarine ship (illustrative) Friday, 25 September 2015 | Only days after Netanyahu's visit to Moscow, Russia's Defense Ministry has announced its plans to engage in a "combat training exercise ...in the eastern part of the Mediterranean." Russia has recently beefed up its military presence at its Syrian Mediterranean port in Tartous.

Yesterday's Defense Ministry press release emphasized that the exercise was "adopted at the end of 2014." The unsaid message: its proximity to today's operations in Syria is accidental.

 The focus of the exercise will be to "practice organization of antisubmarine, anti-ship and air defense as well as search-and-rescue activities and rendering assistance to a distressed vessel."

The exercise is said to include three named vessels: the Smetlivy, a destroyer ship; the Moskova, a guided missile cruiser ship; and the Saratov, an amphibious landing ship.

According to the Defense Ministry, it will also include "auxiliary vessels."

According to a 7 September press release by the intelligence service DEBKA, Russia recently deployed "the world’s largest submarine, the Dmitri Donskoy (TK-208), NATO-coded Typhoon. It "set sail for the Mediterranean, ...destined for the Syrian coast. ...Aboard the sub are 20 Bulava (NATO-code SS-N-30) intercontinental ballistic missiles with an estimated up to 200 nuclear warheads."

Another report two days ago by the Arabic News Service Al-Masdar, indicated that a Chinese military vessel entered the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal on Tuesday. Speculation is that it too was headed for the "eastern Mediterranean" near Syria's coast.

Only months ago, from 17 to 21 May, Russia and China engaged in a joint naval exercise in the Mediterranean. According to Moscow, those exercises consisted of "about 10 warships from the Russian Navy and the People's Liberation Army Navy [of China]."

The pending exercise, near Syria, is set to occur "this September and October." Announcing concern for safety, Russia's Defense Ministry said the exercise zone has been "declared dangerous for civil aircraft and ships according the international law."

Moscow has not said whether or not its nuclear sub, the Dmitri Donskoy, or China's military ship are part of "auxiliary vessels" that will participate in the exercise. 

Source: (Bridges for Peace, 25 September 2015)

Photo Credit: U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sylvia Nealy/wikipedia.org

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