Just moments ago we reported that in the latest escalation involving Syria, the Russian aircraft carrier Kuznetsov was now sailing past Norway on its way to Syria, where it is expected to arrive in just under 2 weeks. As part of the carrier naval group, Russia also deployed an escort of seven other Russian ships, which we dubbed the "most powerful Russian naval task force to sail in northern Europe since 2014" according to Russia's Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily reports.
It turns out it it was even bigger, because according to a NATO diplomat cited by Reuters, Russia is "deploying all of the Northern fleet and much of the Baltic fleet in the largest surface deployment since the end of the Cold War," the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.
"This is not a friendly port call. In two weeks, we will see a crescendo of air attacks on Aleppo as part of Russia's strategy to declare victory there," the diplomat said.
An intensified air campaign in eastern Aleppo, where 275,000 people are trapped, would further worsen ties between Moscow and the West, according to the diplomat who added that "With this assault, it should be enough to allow a Russian exit strategy if Moscow believes Assad is now stable enough to survive."
As we reported earlier, photos of the vessels have been released by the Norwegian military. A Norwegian newspaper quoted the head of the Norwegian military intelligence service saying the ships involved "will probably play a role in the deciding battle for Aleppo".was more than this and as Reuters reported second ago, citing a NATO diplomat, Russia is in fact deploying the largest naval force since end of Cold War to reinforce its Syria campaign. From Reuters:While there is little we can add to this that we did not just say in the previous post, we want to remind readers what the east Meditteranean looked like in the summer of 2013, when the first escalation between Russia and the US converted the sea off the Syrian coastline into a parking lot for warships.
In two weeks, it is about to get much busier.
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For those who missed it, here are the highlights from our previous post on the composition of the Russian flotilla:
According to a report by the Norwegian military which released pictures taken by surveillance aircraft, we know that the Kuznetsov accompanied by a fleet of Russian warships, is currently on its way to Syria and is sailing in international waters off the coast of Norway near Trondheim. Photos of the vessels, which include the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov and the Pyotr Velikiy battle cruiser, were taken near Andoya island, in northern Norway on Monday.
As reported by Reuters , a spokesman for the Norwegian military intelligence service said the country's armed forces frequently releases such footage, while newspaper VG quoted General Morten Haga Lunde, head of the service, as saying the eight ships involved "will probably play a role in the deciding battle for Aleppo". According to Russia's TASS state news agency, the aircraft carrier would carry 15 Su-33 and MIG-29K jet fighters and over 10 Ka-52K, Ka-27 and ??-31 helicopters.
The naval group which includes the carrier and its escort of seven other Russian ships, is the most powerful Russian naval task force to sail in northern Europe since 2014, Russia's Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily reports. The carrier can carry more than 50 aircraft and its weapons systems include Granit anti-ship cruise missiles.
Next in the flotilla, in terms of firepower, is the Russian nuclear-powered battle cruiser Peter the Great.
The Kirov-class cruiser Peter the Great escorts the carrier
As BBC adds, a Norwegian Lockheed P-3 Orion reconnaissance plane, monitoring the force, photographed the ships. MiG-29 Fulcrum jets and combat helicopters were visible on the carrier's deck.
The other Russian surface ships in the group are: two large anti-submarine warships - the Severomorsk and Vice-Admiral Kulakov - and four support vessels.
Several of the task force ships are shown in this Norwegian photo