Reports: Russian warships head to the Gulf region to protect ''national interests''
Two ships of Russia's Pacific Fleet are preparing to leave for a long-term mission that will take them to the Gulf, naval officers in the Far Eastern port of Vladivostok said, according to AFP.
The anti-submarine ships Admiral Panteleyev and Marshal Shaposhnikov are to leave for the Gulf, escorted by a tanker, in the first few days of February, the officers said Sunday.
The officers said the ships' mission would last at least six months, the longest such mission by Pacific Fleet vessels in the past 10 years. The objective of the mission is to "observe the military situation in the region of a possible military conflict between Iraq and the United States," the officers said. The ships are armed with missiles and reconnaissance equipment.
Earlier reports said the Russian move is aimed at protecting the "national interests" in the event of an American war in Iraq. The move is expected to heighten tension between Moscow and Washington, who both have interests in Iraq's oilfields.
Military analysts pointed out that the defence of "national interests" may also refer to the Russian military's desire to conduct surveillance on both sides during any conflict. (Albawaba.com)
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