Russia says sending flagship aircraft carrier to Syria coast
Russia's defence minister said on Wednesday that Moscow was dispatching its flagship aircraft carrier to bolster its forces in the eastern Mediterranean off Syria.
The Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier would be sent to join Russia's current naval deployment there, minister Sergei Shoigu said during a televised meeting.
"Currently the Russian naval deployment to the east Mediterranean consists of no less than six battleships and three or four support vessels," he said.
"In order to bolster the military capabilities of the group we plan to add the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier to the group," Shoigu said, without specifying a timeframe.
Russia has been flying a bombing campaign in Syria for the past year in support of Bashar al-Assad and has deployed a naval contingent to back up its operation.
This is the first time that the Soviet-era Kuznetsov – Russia's only aircraft carrier that is part of its Northern fleet based in Murmansk – will join the Russian deployment after undergoing a refurbishment.
Russia has a base in government-controlled Syrian territory from which it has flown most of its bombing raids in the country.
It has flown long-range bombing raids from bases in Russia and fired cruise missiles from ships in the Caspian Sea and a submarine in the Mediterranean.