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Russia sends flotilla to syria

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Russia next week will dispatch a flotilla of warships, including its navy flagship, to Syria, where the United States has already deployed a naval force.

A Russian battle group, consisting of three vessels led by the heavy aircraft-carrying missile cruiser, Admiral Kuznetsov, will embark on a two-month voyage to the Mediterranean on December 6, a senior Defence Ministry official told the Interfax news agency on Wednesday.

The news of Russian naval deployment came shortly after the U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George HW Bush anchored off Syria, along with additional naval vessels.

The defence official in Moscow insisted that the Russian mission has no connection with the ongoing crisis in the region and was planned long ago. He said the warships will conduct drills in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean far from Syrian shores and will return to their Northern Fleet base in early February. However, the ships will call on the Russian naval base in the Syrian port of Tartus to replenish supplies of food and fuel.

A former Russian naval commander said that Moscow was sending a message to the U.S. and European leaders.

“Having any military force other than NATO’s is very useful for the region because it will prevent the outbreak of armed conflict,” former Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Viktor Kravchenko, told a Russian daily.

Last week unconfirmed reports said that three Russian warships had already anchored near Syrian shores, but Russian officials refused to confirm or deny the reports.

The Russian naval mission to Syria comes at a time of renewed tension in Russian-American relations. President Dmitry Medvedev has recently warned that Moscow would deploy new missiles and take other retaliatory steps if the U.S. goes ahead with its plans to build missile defence systems in Europe that could threaten the Russian nuclear deterrent.

Russia has also announced plans to resume defence cooperation with Cuba after a break of 20 years. The Russian Trade and Industry Ministry is negotiating a contract to set up a munitions facility near Havana to produce cartridges for the Kalashnikov assault rifles, a leading Russia business daily reported on Wednesday. Defence experts said the deal signalled Cuba’s plans to modernise with Russia’s help the vast arsenals of weapons the Soviet Union supplied to the “Freedom Island” between 1961 and 1991, when defence cooperation between the two countries wound up.

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Printable version | Dec 13, 2019 6:37:42 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/russia-sends-flotilla-to-syria/article2674762.ece

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