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Russian Navy to have permanent presence in Mediterranean

Posted By GABRIELLE LEVY, UPI.com   |   June 6, 2013 at 2:26 PM   |   Comments

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June 6 (UPI) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country plans to keep a permanent naval presence in the Mediterranean Sea, citing the instability caused by the Syrian civil war.

“This is a strategically important region,” Putin said Thursday at a meeting with military commanders. “We have our national interests here, linked to the need to maintain national security."

"Resuming a permanent Russian military naval presence in the Mediterranean sea isn’t saber rattling,” he said.

Russia's 16-ship fleet will visit Syrian ports, the only ports Russia maintains outside of the former Soviet Union. It began stepping up patrols in the Mediterranean after the outbreak of the 2-year-old conflict in Syria.

In March, the defense ministry moved to upgrade the fleet to a standing force, and Putin ordered a large-scale exercise involving 36 ships.

The last time Russia maintained a permanent presence in the Mediterranean was before the collapse of the Soviet Union more than 20 years ago.

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