Russian Navy Admiral Viktor Chirkov said Sunday, May 12, that the process is underway for creating a permanent staff to run Russian fleet operations in the Mediterranean Sea. Speaking at Sevastopol, the Black Sea fleet’s home port, Adm. Chirkov said a staff of 20 officers was already in place. And the Mediterranean deployment would comprise five to six warships and their service vessels as well possibly as nuclear submarines which, say our military sources, are armed with nuclear ballistic missiles.
DEBKAfile’s military sources: The new permanent deployment is the next Russian step for safeguarding Bashar Assad’s regime in Damascus and deterring military attacks on his Hizballah allies and Iranian interests in their three-way bloc.
Moscow is also announcing loud and clear that Russia is finally restoring its military presence to the Middle East in 2013 after the last Soviet squadron exited the Mediterranean in 1992.
The Russian naval step came 24 hours after two car bombs reduced to rubble the center of the Turkish town of Reyhanli near the Syrian border, killing 46 people and injuring scores. Turkish ministers at the scene Sunday openly blamed Syrian military intelligence for the attack’s planning and execution.
This raised concerns in Moscow that Ankara was preparing to deliver a serious reprisal, possibly in the form of an aerial or missile assault, on Syrian military targets.