A Russian naval flotilla, which entered the Mediterranean earlier this week, may be there for a long haul, the Russian Navy said.

“The inter-fleet flotilla will be on its mission to the Mediterranean as long as dictated by the operational situation in the region and combat training plans,” a source in the Russian Navy command told the Interfax-AVN military news agency on Friday.

A joint group of 10 Russian warships and 10 escort vessels led by the Admiral Chabanenko anti-submarine destroyer and including landing ships with marines on board, entered the Meditarranean on Tuesday. It is currently stationed off the Southern Syrian coastline. Russia rents a naval supply basis at the Syrian port of Tartus, but naval commanders said the Russian warships will not enter the port.

The powerful Russian task force has been deployed in the Mediterranean at a time when the Syrian conflict is escalating and the United States has vowed to “intensify” its efforts “outside the Security Council,” where Russia and China have blocked Western attempts to sanction outside interference in Syria.

The British, French and U.S. navies are planning a far larger deployment of warships in Eastern Mediterranean in autumn for war games codenamed Exercise Cougar 12.

The Russian Navy earlier denied that its deployment was linked to the current crisis in Syria, but said the Russian flotilla will remain in the Mediterranean at least till October.

“The Mediterranean mission of the Russian flotilla is being overly politicised,” Interfax-AVN quoted the Russian Navy source as saying.

“Those who do not like the presence of the Russian Navy in international waters, would better get used to idea that our warships will henceforth be deployed on a permanent basis in the Mediterranean

and other seas,” the Russian naval official said.

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