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N-subs to be part of Russia's Mediterranean task force

Moscow, May 12 (IANS/RIA Novosti) A permanent Russian task force in the Mediterranean will comprise 5-6 warships and may be enlarged to include nuclear submarines, a military official said Sunday.

"From this year, we plan to have 5-6 warships and support vessels (in the Mediterranean Sea), which will be replaced on a rotating basis from each of the fleets. Depending on the scope of assignments and their complexity, the number of warships in the task force may be increased," said Russian Navy commander Admiral Viktor Chirkov.

Russia's naval fleets comprise the Black Sea, Baltic, Northern and the Pacific fleet.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu earlier said a decision has been made to deploy a permanent task force in the Mediterranean to defend Russia's interests in the area.

The Russian Navy commander also said nuclear submarines could be deployed in the Mediterranean, if necessary.

"Possibly. In a perspective. They (submarines) were present there during the existence of the 5th squadron. There were both nuclear and diesel submarines there. Everything will depend on the situation," he said.

The Soviet Union maintained its 5th Mediterranean Squadron in that sea from 1967 until 1992. It was formed to counter the US Navy 6th Fleet during the Cold War, and consisted of 30-50 warships and auxiliary vessels at different times.

Russia also plans to use its Mediterranean task force for missions in the Atlantic and Indian Ocean, the navy chief said.

"No doubt, if necessary, when some tasks arise in other nearby regions, in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, the task force may be used," Chirkov said.

He said the Russian Navy is training officers who will perform their duties at sea on a permanent basis.

"These persons must be comprehensively trained to solve tasks not only in the Mediterranean but also in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans," he said.

The headquarters of the Mediterranean task force will be set up in the summer of 2013, he said.

Its officers will stay aboard one of the flagships in the Mediterranean Sea.

--IANS/RIA Novosti

pm/vt