PHOTO: Russia’s only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, en route to Syria
Russian warships are carrying fighter-bombers to Syria, hoping for a final assault on the besieged opposition areas of the country’s largest city Aleppo, according to Western intelligence services.
A “senior NATO diplomat”, citing the services, said the Russian fleet passed by the Norwegian city of Bergen on Wednesday. The Norwegian military released photos of the warships, taken on Monday.
Russian media has said the fleet will move through the English Channel, past Gibraltar, and into the Mediterranean Sea to the Syrian coast. The warships include Russia’s only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, and the Soviet-era nuclear-powered battle cruiser Pyotr Velikiy.
“They are deploying all of the Northern fleet and much of the Baltic fleet in the largest surface deployment since the end of the Cold War,” the diplomat said. “This is not a friendly port call. In two weeks, we will see a crescendo of air attacks on Aleppo as part of Russia’s strategy to declare victory there.”
He concluded, “With this assault, it should be enough to allow a Russian exit strategy if Moscow believes Assad is now stable enough to survive.”
Russia-Regime Assault Renewed Last Month
Russia and the Assad regime renewed an intense aerial assault in and near Aleppo on September 19, beginning with the destruction of a UN aid convoy, after the Syrian military ended a brief cease-fire brokered by the US and Moscow.
Since then, more than 600 civilians have been killed by the bombing, while Russia and the regime have tried to tighten a siege that they re-imposed in late August. Moscow blocked an attempt in the UN Security Council for a new ceasefire, assurance of humanitarian aid, and suspension of military overflights.
Trying to fend off pressure for an end to the assault, Russia declared a 48-hour “pause” on Tuesday, calling on residents and rebels to leave opposition districts in Aleppo city.