VLADIVOSTOK, September 19 (RIA Novosti) – The flagship of Russia’s Pacific Fleet, the Varyag missile cruiser, could join the country’s naval task force in the Mediterranean while on a mission in the Indian Ocean, a high-ranking source in Russia’s Pacific Fleet told RIA Novosti on Thursday.
A task force, led by the Varyag, left the naval base in Vladivostok on Wednesday. It is expected to arrive in the Gulf of Aden in October. Some media outlets earlier reported that the warship would replace the Moskva missile cruiser as the flagship of the Russian task force in the Mediterranean.
“The Varyag missile cruiser will carry out a number of tasks in the Indian Ocean until the end of this year and may join Russia’s task force in the Mediterranean if necessary,” the source said.
The source did not specify the nature of the Varyag’s mission in the Indian Ocean, but said the Mediterranean tour was not a priority for the warship.
Russia began its military buildup in the Mediterranean Sea last year. In response to heightened regional tensions due to Syria’s ongoing civil war, the navy established a standing task force in the eastern Mediterranean in December.
As of May 1 this year, all Russian warships operating in the region have been grouped into a single task force under a special offshore maritime zone operational command.
Russia’s naval task force in the eastern Mediterranean currently comprises 10 warships: the guided-missile cruiser Moskva, the destroyers Smetlivy and Admiral Panteleyev, the frigate Neustrashimy and the assault landing ships Nikolai Filchenkov, Peresvyet, Admiral Nevelskoi, Minsk, Novocherkassk and Alexander Shabalin.
The Black Sea Fleet assault landing ship Yamal is expected to join the Mediterranean task force by the end of September.