As if on cue, a Black Sea Fleet unit left Sevastopol for the Mediterranean Sea on the 18th. The "Moskva" guard missile cruiser and "Pytlivy" guard-ship, accompanied by the "Ivan Bubnov" large sea-going tanker, will visit the French Navy base at Toulon on 24-27 October and the Syrian port of Latakia on 2-4 November. The Russian vessels are expected to hold joint maneuvering and communication exercises with French Navy ships. The unit will return to their base at Sevastopol in November.
On the 17th, the "Yamal" large landing craft also left Sevastopol for operations in the Mediterrean: a visit to the Greek island of Corfu from 23 to 27 October and then to the Croatian port of Split, from 29 October to 1 November. The "Yamal" carries a compliment of Naval Infantry, which will take part in ceremonies on Corfu commemorating famous sea captain Fyodor Ushakov (who was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church). Dean of the St. Nicholas Church Father Georgy, who is a passenger on board the Yamal, will hand over the icon of St. Fyodor to the Greek Church of St. Spiridon.
The "Yamal" (formerly the BDK-67) is a Project 775 large landing craft with a 3,450/4,080 ton displacement, a speed of 18 knots and maximum range of 6,000 miles. The vessel's sea endurance is 30 days, has a crew of 98 and is armed with Strela air defense missile launchers, 57-mm AK- 725 and 76-mm AK-176 gun systems. She can also carry 225 marines and 13 medium tanks.
The timing of both operations carries some political significance. As reported eariler on Strategypage, the Greeks are considering restructuring their Marines and purchasing the BMP3. With Turkey becoming more integral in American operations against Iraq, the Greeks are probably feeling left out and reevaluating their options. The "Yamal" is part of Russia's bid to become Athen's new best friend.
Meanwhile, the "Moskva" and her escorts are a reminder to Europe and the United States that Russia still considers herself a relevant conventional power (no matter how far she's backslid since 1991). With war clouds gathering over Iraq, the Kremlin wants to make damn sure they are not ignored. - Adam Geibel
Ship statistics online:
Moskva Class - Project 1123
Ropucha Class - Project 775 Landing Craft
Russia's Mediterranean Eskadra
The 12 October issue of Jane's Navy International reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that he intends to restore the largely neglected and mothballed Russian fleet to something approaching its former strength. He also stated that his government has adopted a new program for re-arming and refitting the fleet with modern technology, as well as a new naval doctrine has been adopted to take the fleet through to 2020.