Russian warships begin military exercises in the Mediterranean Sea

Dec 27, 2012- About a dozen Russian warships are conducting a large-scale strategic exercise in the Mediterranean Sea and the Gulf of Aden. The operation includes docking at several foreign ports of call, including Tartus in Syria. The move has attracted attention and the warships may be used for a possible evacuation of Russian citizens in Syria.

The Russian Armed Forces says the Mediterranean Sea is very important from the point of view of Russia’s geopolitical interests.

This exercise is showing Russia’s military presence in this part of the world’s seas.
The warships will conduct air-defense, anti-ship and anti-submarine drills and call at Russia’s logistical base in Syria. But Russian officials have declined to specify whether the large landing ships were carrying military equipment for Syria.

However, its foreign ministry has confirmed Russia has a contingency plan to evacuate Russian citizens from Syria, if necessary. Experts say the work will be huge.

Anatoly Tsyganok, director of Russian Military Forecast Center, said, “To be precise, there are now about 60 to 70,000 Russian citizens in Syria. Among them 50 percent or more are Syrian women who married Russian officers after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It is very possible that they will also evacuate.”

The expert adds if Russia decides to withdraw its citizens in Syria, it will require more than just the warships. They will also have to rely on airlines between Moscow and Damascus.