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Russia announces new joint exercise in the Mediterranean Sea

The Russian Navy and the country's Aerospace Forces have launched a joint exercise in the eastern Mediterranean Sea where the UK's Carrier Strike Group (CSG) is currently located on deployment, Russian newspaper Kommersant reported on 25 June, quoting the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Taking part in the exercise, which began on 25 June, is the Black Sea Fleet's flagship, the Project 1164 Slava-class guided-missile cruiser Moskva , in addition to the Project Admiral Grigorovich-class frigates Admiral Essen and Admiral Makarov , and two Kilo-class Project 0636.3 submarines, Stary Oskol and Rostov-on-Don.

Participating Russian Aerospace Forces aircraft include Tu-142MK Bear-F and Il-38 May long- and medium-range anti-submarine aircraft, Tu-22M3 Backfire long-range maritime bombers, as well as advanced MiG-31K (‘Foxhound') supersonic multirole interceptors, which Moscow has deployed to Syria for the first time. The MiG-31Ks are configured to carry Kinzhal nuclear-capable air-launched ballistic missiles, which can reach speeds of Mach 10 and have a range of up to 3,000 km.

The drills will be staged to make some use of the Kremlin's recently developed and upgraded Khmeimim air and Tartus naval bases in Syria. Many of the vessels and aircraft are, however, long range and can operate over the area unrefuelled from Russia itself.

The UK's CSG21 task group, led by the Royal Navy's (RN's) aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, has been working with NATO partners and allies in the Mediterranean region since early June. It is accompanied by the Type 45 destroyers HMS Defender and HMS Diamond , Type 23 anti-submarine frigates HMS Kent and HMS Richmond , the Royal Fleet Auxiliary's RFA Fort Victoria and RFA Tidespring

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