MOSCOW, April 5 (RIA Novosti) - Russia has begun setting up a naval task force in the Mediterranean, sending several warships from the Pacific Fleet to the region, the Defense Ministry said on Friday.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in mid-March a permanent naval task force in the Mediterranean was needed to defend Russia’s interests in the Mediterranean Sea.
A group of warships, including the destroyer Admiral Panteleyev, the Peresvet and the Admiral Nevelsky amphibious warfare ships, the Pechenga tanker and the salvage/rescue tug Fotiy Krylov, left the South China Sea and is headed for the Suez Canal, the ministry said.
The group is due to enter the Suez Canal in mid-May, the ministry added.
A senior Defense Ministry official said the Mediterranean task force will comprise 25 officers as part of its command and control system, and that the command and control agencies will be based either in Novorossiysk, Russia, or in Sevastopol, Ukraine.
Adm. Vladimir Komoyedov, head of the parliamentary defense committee, previously told RIA Novosti that the Mediterranean task force should be comprised of 10 warships and support vessels as part of several tactical groups - attack, antisubmarine and minesweeping.
The Soviet Union maintained its 5th Mediterranean Squadron from 1967 until 1992. It was formed to counter the US Navy's 6th Fleet during the Cold War, and consisted of 30-50 warships and auxiliary vessels.