The Russian Black Sea Fleet ships
Russian warships performing naval exercises in the Mediterranean won’t be visiting the Russian base in the Syrian port of Tartus, Russian Navy commander said.
The joint group, composed of ships of three Russian fleets, is taking part in scheduled drills aimed at testing inter-fleet coordination. Earlier Navy sources said it would visit Syria for refueling and taking fresh supplies on board.
“The Russian warships will not be visiting the Syrian port of Tartus. They will carry on the assignment planned for the tour,” Vice-Admiral Viktor Chirkov, who heads the Russian Navy, said on Thursday.
The admiral also said the base in Tartus is “useful, because it helps with lowering operational costs for warships in distant missions,” and that Russia will preserve it. The base plays an important part in Russia’s pirate-fighting mission in the Gulf of Aden.
There are 10 warships and ten support ships of the three Russian fleets in the Mediterranean at present. Ships from the Baltic and Northern Fleets passed the Strait of Gibraltar on Tuesday to meet their counterparts from the Black Sea Fleet.
The landing ships taking part in the exercise have marine units armed with their regular weapons on board, Chirkov confirmed. He added the drills were planned back in 2011.
Earlier some media reports speculated that the exercise may have been timed with an escalation in the Syrian conflict, and that Russian marines may be deployed in Tartus to defend the base from a possible attack. The navy denied the allegations.