MOSCOW, March 1 (RIA Novosti) – A proposed Russian permanent naval task force in the Mediterranean Sea may consist of up to 10 combat and auxiliary ships, a high-ranking military source said.
“A command headquarters responsible for the deployment of a permanent naval task force must be set up at the Black Sea Fleet,” the source told RIA Novosti on Thursday.
“The group may consist of up to 10 vessels, including auxiliary ships,” he said.
A source in the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces confirmed on Thursday that the deployment of Russian warships in the Mediterranean had been a subject of planning for some time.
“It could be a task force consisting of warships from three Russian fleets, similar to the one that has been carrying out exercises in the eastern part of the Mediterranean, near the Syrian coast, for the last six months,” the source said.
The task force may operate on a rotation basis and use ports in Cyprus, Montenegro, Greece and Syria as resupply points, the official added.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu earlier said that Russia needs a group of warships to be permanently present in the Mediterranean Sea to secure the country’s interests in the region.
The Soviet Union maintained the 5th Mediterranean Squadron in the Mediterranean Sea from 1967 until 1992. It was formed to counter the US Navy 6th Fleet during the Cold War, and consisted of 30-50 warships and auxiliary vessels at different times.