The Russian Moskva warship has arrived to lead Russia’s naval task force in the Mediterranean Sea, said a fleet spokesperson.
“The cruiser hosts the headquarters of the operational command of the task force, which includes warships from the Black Sea, Baltic and Pacific fleets,” Trukhachev said.
The Moskva arrives fresh from a tour-of-duty in the Atlantic, which started on July 3, during which it practiced firing at surface and aerial targets, he said.
Russia has been increasing its naval presence in the Mediterranean Sea since it announced in December it would establish a standing task force there to protect its interests in the region.
Initial statements by Russian Defense officials did not explicitly attribute this to the ongoing civil war in Syria, but on Sept. 5, the Kremlin chief of staff said that “given the presence there of amphibious landing ships, they are intended for a possible evacuation of Russian citizens.”
Russia’s naval task force in the eastern Mediterranean currently comprises 10 warships: the guided-missile cruiser Moskva, the destroyers Smetlivy and Admiral Panteleyev, the frigate Neustrashimy and the assault landing ships Nikolai Filchenkov, Peresvyet, Admiral Nevelskoi, Minsk, Novocherkassk and Alexander Shabalin.
The Black Sea Fleet assault landing ship Yamal is expected to join Russia’s Mediterranean Sea task force by the end of September.
“The Yamal’s crew has completed preparations for relocation to the Mediterranean Sea,” Captain Vyacheslav Trukhachev, the Black Sea Fleet information chief told ITAR-TASS news agency. “As part of the preparatory period, the ship has performed several drive outs, which included target practice on sea and land.”
The Yamal will represent the country at the annual ‘Russian Weeks’ forum in Greece, which this year will be hosted by the Ionian Islands.
The Yamal vessel, which has been in service since 1988, is designed for landing operations and the transportation of military personnel and cargo. It’s able to carry up to 250 troops and 10 tanks.
The mounting pressure around Syria has seen naval forces both friendly and hostile to Damascus building up off the country’s coastline.
Russia’s Pacific Fleet flagship, the Varyag missile cruiser, which left Vladivostok Wednesday on a tour-of-duty in the Indian Ocean, may join the Mediterranean task force later this year, if necessary, Navy sources told RIA Novosti on Thursday.