MOSCOW, April 13 (RIA Novosti) – Russian warships will be continuously deployed for patrol duty off the Syrian coast in the Mediterranean, a high-ranking source in the Russian Defense Ministry said on Friday.
“A decision has been made to deploy Russian warships near the Syrian shores on a permanent basis,” the source said.
The Russian Kashin-class guided-missile destroyer Smetlivy is currently deployed near the Syrian coast.
“Another Black Sea Fleet ship will replace the Smetlivy in May,” the source said, adding that several Russian warships were on their way to the Mediterranean.
“This may be the Pytlivy frigate or one of the amphibious assault ships,” he said, adding that “deployment of a Black Sea Fleet task force to the region cannot be ruled out.”
The United States, France, Great Britain, Germany and some other countries have deployed more warships to the Mediterranean since the outbreak of unrest in Syria in February 2012. More than 9,000 people have been killed in the violence, according to the United Nations. On Thursday, the Syrian government declared a ceasefire with opposition fighters as part of a U.N.-brokered peace plan.
The Russian military has repeatedly underscored the need for Russian warships to patrol the Mediterranean on a permanent basis. In Soviet days, up to 50 warships from the Fifth Squadron of the Russian Black Sea Fleet and other Soviet Navy units have been deployed in the Mediterranean on a permanent basis.
Over the winter months, a Russian task force, led by the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier, has been deployed to the Mediterranean. The ships returned to the Russian Northern Fleet’s home base of Severomorsk in February, after two-month naval exercises.
Other Russian ships currently on patrol duty in the Mediterranean are the Kildin surveillance ship, as well as the Iman tanker vessel and a floating workshop deployed near the Syrian port of Tartus.