Russia Sends Latest Missile Warship Near Syria Where War Games Are About to Begin

Russia has entered its latest missile corvette into service with Moscow's Mediterranean Fleet, a powerful formation of warships involved in the war in Syria and currently preparing for annual summer war games.

Russia's Black Sea Fleet held a ceremony Friday to induct the Buyan-M-class missile corvette Vyshny Volochyok on the first day of the season's military exercises. The relatively small vessel makes up for what it lacks in size with its high-speed maneuverability and an arsenal of advanced Kalibr-NK cruise missiles capable of hitting targets at sea or land.

"Today the Black Sea Fleet has become even stronger…this is another obvious confirmation of the state policy for strengthening Russia's defense capability and its armed forces," Rear Admiral Viktor Liina, the fleet's chief of staff, said during Friday's ceremony, according to the state-run Tass Russian News Agency.

"This warship won't stay at the berth for long: the crew will set off for accomplishing combat duty and combat training missions in the coming months and, if the Motherland issues such an order, in accomplishing combat assignments in the fleet's operational zone," he added.

Buyan-M-class missile corvette Vyshny Volochyok is accepted into the Black Sea Fleet, June 1, 2018. The warship will take part in military exercises in the Mediterranean and beyond. Russian Ministry of Defense

The Vyshny Volochyok is the sixth in the Buyan-M-class line of missile corvettes and is armed with some of Russia's latest missile, artillery, anti-sabotage technology, air defense and communications technology. Three of its peer ships are part of a naval flotilla in the Caspian Sea, from which they have blasted Islamic State militant group (ISIS) targets over 1,000 miles away in Syria. The other two are serving in the Baltic Fleet, which operates on the frontlines of a tense standoff opposite the NATO Western military alliance.

Liina said the Vyshny Volochyok would take on "navigational assignments and combat readiness training" as "part of preparations for further missions in the Black Sea and in the Mediterranean," Tass reported.

Related: U.S. and Russia Military Came 'Close' to Fighting Each Other in Syria, Assad Says

Russia maintains two military bases on Syria's west coast, a naval installation in Tartous and the Hmeymim air base in the province of Latakia.

Russia, a longtime Assad ally, intervened on the Syrian leader's behalf in 2015, helping his armed forces and Iran-backed allies overcome insurgents across the country. By this time, a U.S.-led coalition had also begun bombing the jihadis and mostly dropped its former Syrian opposition allies for a mostly Kurdish alliance known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, which now hold about a third of the war-torn nation. The U.S. and Russian campaigns maintain contact, but operate separately and have threatened to clash at times.

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Buyan-M-class missile corvette Grad Sviyazhsk fires a Kalibr cruise missile during exercises in the Caspian Sea, October 2017. RUSSIAN MINISTRY OF DEFENSE

Russian President Vladimir Putin told top military, defense industry and economic officials last month that the Black Sea Fleet's Mediterranean presence would be permanent. He especially noted "the efficient and coordinated actions of the crews of our ships and submarines during the military operation in Syria" where "cruise missile attacks and the effective work of the carrier aviation dealt a serious blow to the terrorists, destroying important infrastructure facilities."

As part of Putin's plan to enhance Russia's naval posture, the Black Sea Fleet set out Friday to reportedly conduct up to 20 exercises in oceans around the world.

"The fleet's warships and vessels are set for long-distance voyages in the Atlantic, the Arctic, the Eastern Mediterranean, the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Overall, the fleet's 10 surface ships and nine vessels will be involved in accomplishing inherent missions in remote areas of the World Ocean until the end of the 2018 training year," Fleet Commander Vice-Admiral Alexander Nosatov said in a statement carried by Tass.

"The fleet's combat ships and vessels will continue accomplishing missions in various areas of the World Ocean both on their own and as part of the Russian Navy's permanent Mediterranean taskforce," he added. "We also face an important state task to protect Russia's frontiers in the Kaliningrad direction," he said, in an apparent reference to the Russian exclave nestled between Poland and Lithuania.