Russian wants naval task force in the Med

Aiming to build up a permanent fleet in the region, Russia has sent warships from its Pacific Fleet to the Mediterranean for the first time in decades.

Three Russian warships will be making a port call at Limassol today, the South Cyprus Defence Ministry confirmed last night.

Defence Minister Fotis Fotiou has been invited aboard one of the vessels tomorrow, a spokesperson for the ministry said. He will be accompanied by the Russian Federation’s ambassador to South Cyprus.

The ships will remain here until next Wednesday.

They include the destroyer ‘Admiral Panteleyev’, two amphibious warfare ships, the ‘Peresvet’ and the ‘Admiral Nevelskoi’ as well as a tanker and a tugboat.

The ships left the Far-Eastern port city of Vladivostok on March 19 to join Russia’s Mediterranean task force, which currently consists of vessels from Northern, Baltic, and the Black Sea Fleets.

The Russian Defence Ministry announced setting up a naval task force in the Mediterranean in April, while the country’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu has said a permanent naval task force was needed to defend Russia’s interests in the region.

The Mediterranean has recently become a hotspot of military muscle-flexing as global powers seemingly vie for influence.

NATO has been staging major naval war games involving several countries, last October holding an exercise code-named Noble Mariner 12. Russia held its largest naval exercises in the region this January, with drills spanning both the Black and Mediterranean Seas. The media soon linked both the NATO and Russian war games to the situation in Syria.

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