- Russia has deployed two frigates to the Mediterranean, one with long-range Kalibr cruise missiles
- A second Russian frigate armed with Kalibr missiles is in the Red Sea
Russia appears to be building up its naval forces in the Eastern Mediterranean at a time that the United States is threatening to intervene against Syrian government forces attacking the rebel enclave east of Damascus.
Two major Russian naval vessels – the Admiral Grigorovich-class frigate Admiral Essen and the Krivak II-class anti-submarine frigate Pytivyy – were photographed passing southwards through the Bosphorus by independent ship observers on 12–13 March. Admiral Essen is armed with Kalibr cruise missiles with a range of 2,500 km.
The Russian Ministry of Defence announced on 15 March that the Black Sea Fleet had made “a planned transition from Sevastopol to the Mediterranean” and released a photograph of a Krivak II class.
The ships will join the Russian naval contingent off the coast of Syria as tension grows with the United States over the East Ghouta enclave that has been under sustained attack by government forces since February, despite the UN Security Council passing a resolution calling for a ceasefire.
Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the Security Council said on 12 March that Washington “remains prepared to act” to enforce the ceasefire if the UN does not act.
The following day, General Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the general staff of the Russian Armed Forces, told a media briefing in Moscow that Russia would react if its military personnel in Syria came under attack. “If lives of the Russian officers are threatened, the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation will retaliate against missile and launch systems [that carry out those attacks],” he said.
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