Russia holds Mediterranean naval drills in support of the Assad regime’s final push

Russia holds Mediterranean naval drills in support of the Assad regime’s final push

Today, Russia will begin a major Mediterranean naval exercise to signal its support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, as

Russia Navy

AFP Photo/Max Delany

Today, Russia will begin a major Mediterranean naval exercise to signal its support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, as the latter prepares for a major offensive in Syria’s Idlib province.

Idlib and its surrounding areas in northern Syria are the last major enclave of rebels opposed to President Assad’s regime. Mr Assad is planning to conduct a phased military operation to “regain” the province that the regime claims is overrun by “terrorists”.

According to Russia’s Ministry of Defence, more than 25 warships and support vessels and around 30 planes, including fighter jets and strategic bombers, are expected to participate in the drills. Russian media claims the naval build-up is the largest since Moscow began involving itself in the Syrian conflict.

NATO has already formally warned Russia to “exercise restraint” in its activities. However, Russian and other sources suggest the US could be preparing further action—possibly a substantial cruise missile strike against regime forces to deter Russia from coordinating military action with pro-Assad forces in Idlib. Be on the lookout for a potential US move and, if there is a strike, to what extent Russia is deterred from limiting its naval operations to only drills.

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