Amidst Ukraine Tensions, Russian Amphibs Reach Eastern Med Naval Base

The Ropucha-class landing ship Olenegorskiy Gornyak at Tartus, Syria (Russian Ministry of Defense)

Published Feb 6, 2022 5:45 PM by The Maritime Executive

Six Russian tank landing craft from the Baltic and Northern Fleets have arrived at Russia's Eastern Mediterranean naval base in Tartus, Syria. The supply stop puts them within easy reach of the Black Sea, where they would be of potential use in the event of a widely-anticipated Russian invasion of Ukraine. U.S. intelligence services believe that Russia has positioned about 70 percent of the forces and assets it would require for an invasion, and the start of a large-scale offensive "could happen at any time," according to the White House.

Russian state media reported the arrival of the small flotilla on Friday. The group includes the large tank landing ship Pyotr Morgunov and five smaller Ropucha-class landing ships, Olenegorskiy Gornyak, Georgiy Pobedonosets, Korolev, Minsk, and Kaliningrad. Each Ropucha is capable of delivering up to 24 armored personnel carriers to an unimproved beach landing zone. 

"The ships are in a roadstead in the Syrian port of Tartus where they have begun replenishing their fuel and lubricants, fresh water and food supplies to the required level at the Russian Navy’s logistic support facility in the Mediterranean," said the Russian Ministry of Defense in a statement. 

The Russian Navy has additional vessel assets in the Mediterranean, including the surveillance vessel Vasiliy Tatishchev; the oilers Boris Butoma and Vyazma; the cruiser Varyag, flagship of Russia's Pacific Fleet; and the destroyer Admiral Tributs.

Another large Russian task force is operating at sea in the Atlantic, near Ireland, and another in the Western Pacific. All told, according to the Russian Navy, more than 140 warships will leave port over the coming weeks for a series of massive drills. The exercises are scheduled to end on February 20, the final day of the Beijing Winter Olympics. 

NATO forces have also deployed to the Mediterranean for a series of exercises, Neptune Strike '22. The carrier USS Harry S. Truman has been ordered to remain in the Mediterranean since December amidst rising tensions with Russia, and in late January, allied forces joined her in a demonstration of NATO presence. The exercise formally concluded on February 4.