BEIRUT, LEBANON (5:20 P.M.) – The Russian military kicked off the fourth and last phase of their large-scale naval exercises along the Syrian coast this week.

According to reports from the eastern Mediterranean, ships from Russia’s Black Sea Fleet were reportedly conducting drills between the Syrian and Cypriot territorial waters.

The first phase of the Russian military began on January 8th and then two other phases were held throughout the month.

Russia has repeatedly held drills in the Mediterranean Sea off the Syrian coast in 2018, with the largest such exercises held in September, when 26 ships and 34 aircraft engaged in training in the area amid threats by the US-led coalition to launch airstrikes against Syria under the pretext of the use of chemical weapons in the country’s rebel and terrorist-held Idlib province.

In November, Russia deployed the Kalibr missile-armed Admiral Makarov frigate to the Mediterranean. Russia has repeatedly used Kalibrs against Daesh (ISIS)*, al-Nusra and other terrorist groups in Syria. The long-range missiles were first used in October 2015, when gunboats in the Caspian Sea launched Kalibrs at targets over 1,500 km away in Syria.

Russia beefed up its Mediterranean Sea deployment this summer, deploying the Admiral Grigorovich, Admiral Essen and Pytlivy frigates to the area, along with the Nikolai Filchenkov landing ship and the Vishny Volochek missile corvette.

The western Mediterranean has been the source of considerable friction between regional and world powers in recent months.

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