Russia is sending more warships to east Mediterranean in an apparent response to the build-up of U.S. and British forces as the crisis over Syria continues to escalate.
Moscow is dispatching a large anti-submarine ship and a missile cruiser to Mediterranean, the Interfax newswire reported on Thursday.
"The well-known situation in eastern Mediterranean has dictated the need to make some adjustments to our naval group in the region," the Interfax quoted a source in the Russian General Staff as offering a carefully worded comment.
The anti-submarine ship will head for Mediterranean in the next few days and the missile cruiser, Moskva, will join in later, the source said.
The Moskva guilded missile cruiser, the flagship of Russia's Black Sea Fleet, which is currently paying a visit to Venezuela, will head for Mediterranean later on Thursday, according to the press service of the Black Sea Fleet.
A spokesman for the Russian naval command said the deployment was part of a planned rotation and had no connection with the situation in Syria.
Another Russian Navy spokesman two days ago also said Russia had no immediate plans to increase its naval strength in Mediterranean, but stressed that the Russian task force in the region, "while it has no fighting orders, is ready to take any action to defend Russia's national interests".
Russia does not say how many warships it has in the Mediterranean, but earlier this year it decided to re-establish permanent naval presence in the region it had in Soviet times. Russia staged its largest war games in Mediterranean in January involving more than 20 surface ships and submarines, as well as strategic bombers and other aircraft.
The Russian naval beefing in the Mediterranean comes as the U.S. is increasing the number of its aircraft carriers from one to two in the Persian Gulf and Britain is deploying six Typhoon jets to its base in Cyprus.
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said his country would not go to war with the West over Syria but would staunchly oppose unilateral military action against the country.
A top Russian diplomat said a Western military strike would fly in the face of international law and entail dire consequences