AFRICANGLOBE – A large anti-submarine ship named “Admiral Panteleyev” reportedly arrived in the east Mediterranean Sea to join the Russian standing naval force as flagship. It comes shortly before the scheduled rotation of two Russian landing craft carriers in the area.
The Russian Navy destroyer left the Far-Eastern port city of Vladivostok on March 19 and arrived in the designated area of the eastern Mediterranean on Wednesday, according to sources cited by Interfax and RIA Novosti.
Meanwhile, the Russian Defense Ministry said that large landing craft carriers “Novocherkassk” and “Minsk” of Russia’s Black and Baltic Sea Fleets have been dispatched to the area, and will join the permanent Mediterranean naval force on September 5-6 in accordance with the earlier planned schedule.
A General Staff source told Itar-Tass that reconnaissance ship “Priazovye” also headed to the area to aid in monitoring the situation in the region.
A senior Russian Navy Main Staff source also told Interfax that guided missile cruiser “Moskva” will be the next vessel arriving in the Mediterranean to replace “Admiral Panteleyev” as flagship.
“Moskva” will arrive “in 10 days’ time,” the source claimed, adding that Russian Baltic Fleet destroyer “Nastoichivy” and escort ship of the Black Sea Fleet “Smetlivy” will also be joining the Russian naval unit “in the short run.” None of these claims have been officially confirmed.
The Defense Ministry has repeatedly stressed that the maneuvers are part of the “stage-by-stage rotation of warships and support ships of the standing naval force in the Mediterranean” and that the recent deployments are aimed at monitoring the situation in the region.
“This is a normal practice of any fleet in the event of rising tension in any given ocean or sea area,” Itar-Tass’s source said, adding that the Russian Navy will only be increasing its “complex monitoring” of the situation around Syria.
According to a ministry spokesman’s Tuesday statement, the key task of the Russian standing naval force in the Mediterranean is “comprehensive monitoring over the air, underwater, and surface situation in the zone of its deployment.”
Prior to the arrival of destroyer “Admiral Panteleyev,” the naval force consisted of landing craft carriers “Aleksandr Shabalin,” “Admiral Nevelskoy,” and “Peresvet,” RIA Novosti reports. It also included escort vessel “Neustrashimy” as well as a tanker and a tugboat.
As the Russian Navy’s moves sparked speculations in the media claiming that Russia is boosting its naval presence in the region ahead of a possible Western strike against Syria, defense officials said that one should not draw parallels between relocations of warships and the Syrian crisis.
“Our military presence in this region predates the Syrian conflict, and will continue after it, and so it would be wrong to draw any connection between the rotation of our ships in the Mediterranean region and events in Syria,” a senior Russian Navy source told reporters.