Russian naval ships to stay in Mediterranean Sea

The Russian Navy will maintain its presence in the Mediterranean Sea, a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman told Interfax-AVN on Tuesday.

"Following the Jan. 19-29 naval maneuvers in the Black and Mediterranean Seas, the Defense Ministry ruled that the Russian warships should continue their mission in the Mediterranean Sea," he said.

The Russian group currently present in the Mediterranean Sea includes the Black Sea Fleet's surveillance ship Smetlivy and several support vessels, the spokesman said. The large assault ships Kaliningrad and Alexander Shabalin of the Baltic Fleet will join the unit soon. The Black Sea Fleet will send the large assault ships Saratov and Azov to the Mediterranean Sea before the end of February.

The size of the group and the types of ships operating in this district will subsequently be determined depending on the situation there, he said.

For his part, a Russian military expert said, commenting on the presence of Russian naval ships in the Mediterranean Sea, that "given the situation in the region and the inclusion of large assault ships in the group, it is possible to presume that the main task facing the Russian naval forces will be their role in a possible evacuation of Russian citizens from Syria."

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