A dozen Russian warships from three fleets are participating in a joint three-month exercise. The group is to visit the Syrian port city of Tartus, where a Russian base is located. The drills are not related to the Syrian conflict, the military say.
The warships and supply ships are derived from Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, Northern Fleet and Baltic fleet, the Defense Ministry said. The exercise’s main goal is to test inter-fleet coordination during the joint maneuvers.
The Northern Fleet is contributing the largest portion of the group, a destroyer, four tank landing ships and two support ships. The vessels have left their base in Severomorsk and are heading to a rendezvous point in the North Atlantic, where they will meet a fellow group from the Baltic Fleet consisting of a corvette and a refueling tanker.
Together they will set sail to the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, meeting two tank landing ships and a corvette from the Russian Black Sea Fleet on their way.
“The inter-fleet group under a single command will perform a number of scheduled combat preparedness tasks while following their route in the ocean zone,” the ministry’s statement says.
The movement of the Russian warships is of no concern for Washington, US officials said after unconfirmed reports about the exercise surfaced on Tuesday.
“We currently have no reason to believe this move is anything out of the ordinary, but we refer you to the Russian government for more details,” Erin Pelton, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, told AFP.
The drills are not connected to the ongoing crisis in Syria, a diplomatic source assured Interfax news agency.
“We have nothing to hide… It’s a scheduled exercise, a regular trip for our ships, which has nothing to do with the Syrian events,” the source said.
Last week NATO launched its own joint exercise in the Mediterranean. The Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 comprised of Turkish, German and French warships is conducting anti-terrorist drills not far from the Syrian borders.