Today, at a meeting in the Ministry of Defense they discussed the unique operation that Russian sailors, together with foreign colleagues, are carrying out in the Mediterranean.
They are escorting ships filled with Syrian chemical weapons. It is understood that this deadly cargo, that includes about 20 tons of toxic mustard gas, needs to be taken out of the country before March 31 of this year. And by the end of June, Assad’s “chemicals” must be completely destroyed.
Our country is not directly involved in the elimination of the Syrian WMD. However, Russia and some other states have undertaken a no less important task – to ensure safe transportation of chemical weapons first to the port of Latakia, and then, by sea, to the places of disposal.
Because the route goes mostly through the sea, a special role in this mission fell on our Navy task force in the Mediterranean. Now it consists of eight warships and support ships led by the heavy nuclear missile cruiser “Peter the Great”. On board that ship, a staff coordination center has been deployed, where in addition to Russian sailors, Navy liaison officers from Denmark, Norway and China operate.
Last week, “Peter the Great”, together with a Chinese patrol ship “Yang Chen” escorted and ensured the safety of the Danish special ship “Ark Futura” with the first batch of Syrian chemical weapons on board.
“The crew of the cruiser successfully accomplished its mission,” captain Oleg Peshkurov, the Commander of the Navy task force in the Mediterranean reported today to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu via video conference.
Our defense ministry wouldn’t say where exactly the dangerous cargo from Syria was transported to. But, according to some sources, its future path goes through Italy. In the opinion of Russian military leaders, the following circumstance looks important: the first phase of an operation carried out in the Mediterranean on January 7, was truly unprecedented. History hasn’t known such interaction between the crews of the Russian and Chinese navies during a military operation.
The heavy nuclear missile cruiser “Peter the Great” is still in the Mediterranean. Its sailors are ready to continue to participate in the removal of Syrian chemical weapons. However, it is possible that this task will be taken over by the Northern Fleet aircraft carrier group that consists of the heavy aircraft carrier “Admiral Kuznetsov”, large anti-submarine ship “Admiral Levchenko”, large landing ship “Olenegorsky Gornyak”, as well as three support ships. They are already out to sea, and the final destination will be the eastern Mediterranean.
But why a “support” mission should involve such a major naval force? The Defense Ministry explained to RG that transportation of chemical weapons is too important an operation to entrust it, for example, to landing ships. “A convoy should ensure protection of ships with dangerous cargo in three dimensions: from strikes from air, land and sea, including under water. This task can only be performed by ships having the appropriate systems to detect and destroy targets,” said the military.