Russia has staged large-scale military exercises in the Mediterranean Sea near Syria, involving both its Navy and Air Force. The drills were held amid ongoing escalation around Idlib, and US threats to strike Syria.
Footage released by Russia’s Defense Ministry shows Marine Special Forces equipped with state-of-the-art gear landing on the shores of Syria’s Latakia province. The Marines used helicopters, fast-attack craft and armored vehicles while landing from major amphibious ships under the cover of dozens of Russian combat aircraft.
The spectacular display was just part of a week-long exercise, which is said to be the first of its kind in this part of the Mediterranean. Apart from the naval infantry training, in which the Marines not only honed their amphibious skills but also practiced protecting Russian Navy ships from sabotage activities, the war games also involved maritime live-fire drills.
More than two dozen battleships, including the ‘Marshal Ustinov’ cruiser and three of Russia’s newest frigates, launched anti-ship missiles and fired high-caliber guns. The drills also saw Russian strategic Tu-160 Blackjack bombers and long-range Tu-142 Bear submarine hunters train simulated missile launches.
Held between September 1 and September 8, the drills also involve establishing a foothold on the territory controlled by a simulated enemy. In total, 26 vessels from all Russian fleets, including two submarines, as well as 34 aircraft, took part in the war games.
Earlier, the Kremlin spokesman explained that the drills were partly linked to the situation in Syria’s Idlib province. Idlib is “a hotbed of terrorism and nothing good may come from it, unless action is taken,” Dmitry Peskov said ahead of the drills in late August, adding that some “additional safety measures” are “justified.”
The exercise comes amid high tension in the region as Moscow says the US is deploying additional military assets towards Syria for a potential missile attack against Syrian government forces. More than a week ago, the missile destroyer USS ‘Ross’ was deployed to the Mediterranean, carrying 28 Tomahawk cruise missiles. It came after a similar maneuver by USS ‘The Sullivans’ to the Persian Gulf and the relocation of a B-1B Lancer strategic bomber to an airbase in Qatar. The Russian Defense Ministry said the preparations are “the latest evidence of the US intention” to strike after what it says will be a false-flag chemical attack in Syria.
The Pentagon has already compiled a list of preliminary targets in Syria, which the US military is planning to hit in case of a “chemical weapons attack.” It has also “routinely” briefed the US President Donald Trump on “military options” in case of such an incident.
The Russian Defense Ministry has repeatedly warned that the militants in Idlib have been preparing a false-flag attack using chemical weapons to justify the US strike against the forces loyal to the Syrian government. On Saturday, the ministry’s spokesman, Major General Igor Konashenkov, said that these preparations had entered their “final stage.”