Monday, August 25, 2008


Russian Mediterranean warships placed under Black Sea Fleet command

DEBKAfile Special Report

August 25, 2008, 2:58 PM (GMT+02:00)

Russian Navy chief Adm. Vladimir Vysotsky confers with Chief of Staff Gen. Nikolay Makarov

Russian Navy chief Adm. Vladimir Vysotsky confers with Chief of Staff Gen. Nikolay Makarov

The Russian Navy chief, Adm. Vladimir Vysotsky announced Sunday, Aug. 24, that its warships in the Mediterranean region have been placed under the command of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.

At the same time, the American aircraft carrier, the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group heading a six-vessel contingent set sail this week for the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf, with 6,000 sailors and marines aboard.

Then on Monday, the Russian general staff took the further step of announcing regular searches of all cargoes transiting the Georgian port of Poti.

DEBKAfile’s military sources report extreme concern in Israel’s military and navy. Washington and Jerusalem both regard the link-up of Russian naval operations in the two waters a further aggressive Russian step in the Cold War spreading out of Georgia to the Black Sea, the Ukraine, and other parts of the Caucasian region.

Moscow’s Black Sea Fleet headquarters at the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol will henceforth be in command of the flotilla to be deployed at the Syrian port of Tartus.

The Black Sea’s flagship, the Moskva missile cruiser, was accordingly detached Saturday, Aug. 23, from the Russian naval contingent heading for Syria and recalled to Sevastopol. Henceforth, the Moska will act as joint flagship for the Black Sea and Mediterranean fleets, linking to two under a single command.

Moscow’s announcement Monday that Russian forces would search cargoes transiting Poti underscored its determination to retain its grip on the strategic Black Sea port.

At the opposite end of the new Russian maritime chain, US and Israeli satellites have recently observed large dredgers operating at the Syrian port of Tartus. They are believed to be preparing the small Mediterranean port to serve as permanent base for large Russian naval vessels, such as the Admiral Kuznetsov – right opposite the US Sixth Fleet and in close proximity to Israeli waters and shores.

Boosting the US naval buildup in the region, Tuesday, Aug. 26, the USS Iwo Jima leaves Norfolk for the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf at the head of a large group which includes the USS San Antonio amphibious transport dock ship.

They will be joined Friday by the amphibious dock landing ship USS Carter Hall , the guided missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf and the guided missile destroyer USS Ramage . Another guided missile destroyer. the USS Roosevelt and the fast attack submarine USS Hartford will be part of the group.



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