MOSCOW: Russian warships have embarked on a long voyage to the Black and Mediterranean seas to take part in what the Defense Ministry said would be the largest naval exercise in decades.
It said Wednesday that ships from its Northern, Baltic, Black Sea and Pacific fleets would stage the exercise at the end of the month to test their ability to act together outside Russian waters.
Its website said the training exercise would also include anti-terrorism and anti-piracy drills.
“A navy exercise on such a scale is being staged for the first time in recent decades,” the ministry said, without giving other details such as how many ships would take part.
Russia regularly stages naval war games involving different fleets and in August sent ships to the Mediterranean for a combined training exercise.
State-owned RIA Novosti news agency said the August exercise had involved three large amphibious assault ships, two frigates, a destroyer and two support ships.
Moscow has been trying to strengthen its military presence in the Mediterranean region.
President Vladimir Putin has said Russia needs a stronger army to protect it from foreign attempts to stoke conflicts around its borders.
The Defense Ministry did not say whether the coming deployment was connected to the conflict in Syria. Moscow has been a staunch supporter of President Bashar Assad as well as his largest arms supplier.
Last month, a naval source told Interfax news agency that Russia was sending warships to the Mediterranean in case it needed to evacuate citizens trapped by the civil war in Syria.