Tuesday, 8th January 2013

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The Russian Navy warship Severomorsk is pictured above in Ceuta, from where it sailed yesterday bound for anti-piracy operations off Somalia. The destroyer was one of three vessels that called at the Spanish enclave in north Africa over the weekend. Ceuta has become a key staging post for the Russian Navy, which uses the port to refuel and resupply its ships, as well as for shore leave for its personnel. The arrival of the three ships – the others were the tug Altai and the supply ship Dubna – comes at a time when Russia is increasing its naval presence in the Mediterranean. The Sunday Times reported at the weekend that five Russian landing ships carrying hundreds of marines and military vehicles were gathering in the eastern Mediterranean.

A Russian diplomat told the newspaper that it was a show of force aimed at deterring western intervention in Syria’s civil war.

The five landing ships are accompanied by warships from the Black Sea and Baltic Sea fleets and are converging on the Syrian port of Tartus, where Russia maintains a military base. It is the largest Russian naval force in the area for 40 years, according to the article.

Officially, Russia says the task force is engaged in a routine naval exercise.

The vessels that called in Ceuta are not expected to join that exercise and were said to be en route to the Gulf of Aden.

Russia keeps a naval task force in the Gulf of Aden as part of the international effort to fight piracy off the Somali coast.

Russian warships have successfully escorted hundreds of commercial vessels from various countries through Somali coastal waters since 2008, when Russia joined the international anti-piracy mission in the region.




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