Black Sea Fleet's anti-pirate mission in Indian Ocean cancelled

 A unit of Russian Black Sea Fleet ships will return to their homeport of Sevastopol in the second half of December, and its earlier planned cruise to the Indian Ocean through the Suez Canal for an anti-pirate mission together with Pacific Fleet ships has been cancelled, a source from the Russian General Staff told Interfax-AVN on Wednesday.

It was reported earlier that the passage through the Suez Canal was scheduled for Nov. 27. However, the unit received orders on Nov. 23 to stay in the Eastern Mediterranean if it were necessary to evacuate Russian citizens from the Israel-Gaza conflict area.

"The ships' cruise to the Indian Ocean through the Suez Canal to ensure the security of civilian navigation in the Gulf of Aden has been cancelled because of the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean. No instructions have been received regarding evacuation of Russian citizens from the Gaza Strip," the source said.

The unit's operations in the area will be phased out stage by stage, the source said. The first to go to Sevastopol will be the Black Sea Fleet flagship, the Moskva missile cruiser, which should reach the homeport next week. The Moskva will be followed by the Smetlivy destroyer, which is currently on a mission near Crete. The Novocherkassk and the Saratov landing ships and also two support vessels are preparing for the cruise and should return to their base several days later. "Russia has already filed a bid for its ships to pass through the Dardanelles and the Bosporus," he said.

With the amendments made to the previous plans, the December and January anti-pirate mission has been delegated to Pacific Fleet vessels, which are supposed to arrive in the area next week.

The Defense Ministry reported earlier that the Moskva missile cruiser, the Smetlivy destroyer, the Novocherkassk and the Saratov landing ships and support vessels were preparing for an anti-pirate mission near the Somali coast. They were supposed to be joined by a tactical unit of Pacific Fleet vessels before Dec. 10.

The ministry planned that, if need be, specialists from the PM-56 floating workshop currently deployed at the Tartus port could be engaged in minor maintenance procedures.

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