A fleet of warships headed by the Russian navy’s flagship aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, has reached the Mediterranean Sea as part of Moscow’s anti-terrorism operations in Syria.
On Tuesday, the Russian Defense Ministry released footage of the battle group, which includes the Pyotr Veliky missile cruiser. According to the ministry, the ships will join the country’s naval group carrying out anti-terrorism operations in the eastern Mediterranean.
In the footage, a Ka-27 military helicopter and MiG-29 and Sukhoi Su-33 carrier-based jets can be seen taking off and landing on the ships.
In July, Russia said that the flagship, classified by Moscow as a heavy aircraft-carrying missile cruiser (TAVKR), will be carrying 15 Sukhoi Su-33 fighter jets and Mikoyan MiG-29K/KUB fighters, and around 10 Kamov Ka-52K, Ka-27, and Ka-31 choppers.
Russian fleet causes stir
Meanwhile, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu noted that Moscow was quite surprised that several countries denied Russia’s warships entry to their ports while they were on their way to the Mediterranean. He stressed that Russia’s Western colleagues needed to make up their minds on who they are actually battling – terrorists or Russia.
“The movement of our ships has caused a stir among our Western partners,” he said. “But the most surprising thing was the position of certain countries that, under pressure from the US and NATO, have publicly refused our warships entry to their ports.”
“It did not affect the schedule of their movement along the chosen route, as they had been provided with all the necessary resources,” Shoigu added. “It is time for our Western colleagues to decide who they are actually fighting – terrorists or Russia. As one poet once said, ‘one cannot sit on one and the same place on different trains.”
While traveling towards the Mediterranean through international waters, the fleet was shadowed by British, Norwegian, and Dutch frigates and surveillance vessels.
Last week, Russia cancelled plans for a fleet of its warships to refuel at a Spanish port after Spain, a NATO member state, said it was reviewing Russia’s request to refuel its naval fleet at Ceuta after passing through the Straits of Gibraltar en route to Syria. Russian forces are engaged in an anti-terror campaign in support of the Syrian government, which has been dealing with a foreign-sponsored conflict that has claimed the lives of more than 400,000 people since March 2011, according to an estimate by the UN.