Russian Black sea fleet puts out to sea heading to Syrian coastal waters

Russian Black sea fleet puts out to sea heading to Syrian coastal waters

Moscow has said it would hold “combat exercises” in the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea. The naval maneuvers in the region could raise tensions with the US, which accuses Russia of military buildup in Syria.

The naval drills are scheduled for the end of September and beginning of October, Russian Defense Ministry said on Thursday.

The exercises are set to include three ships from Russia’s Black Sea Fleet , including the Saratov landing ship, the Moskva guided missile cruiser and the Smetlivy destroyer (pictured above), as well as other military vessels.

“In total, there should be over 40 combat exercises, including rocket and artillery fire at sea and airborne targets,” the officials said in a statement.

The Moskva cruiser has already left the Sevastopol port in Crimea and is heading towards Bosporus, Russian news agency Interfax has reported.

The navy is scheduled to train its defense against submarines, aircrafts and naval attacks as well as conduct search and rescue operations.

Drills restarted

The announced drills could increase friction between Kremlin and the NATO military alliance, with Western powers showing concern that Russia might join the fighting in Syria. The United States also claimed that Russia has boosted its military support to the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the exercises “in the eastern section of the Mediterranean sea,” were planned since late 2014. Ministry officials did not link the maneuvers with the possible involvement in Syria.

Moscow has informed naval and air-traffic authorities of the exercises in the region, in accordance with the international law, the Defense Ministry added.

After many years of inactivity, the Russian military restarted the navy exercises in the Mediterranean in 2013.

dj/sms (AFP, AP, Interfax)

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