Russia is deploying a missile cruiser in the Mediterranean to provide aerial security to its forces after Turkey shot down one of its Su-24M bomber aircraft. Russia's Moskva (Moscow), a flagship missile cruiser of the Black Sea fleet, has been ordered to destroy any target posing danger to its interests. The vessel was in Crimea's Sevastopol but left the base earlier in 2015.
The warship will be positioned off Latakia coast strengthening Russia's base in the region. Moscow's General Staff's Sergey Rudskoy said communication with the Turkish military will be cut off.
"The General Staff is currently working out additional measures to ensure the security of the Russian air base. First: all actions of strike aircraft will be carried out only under cover of fighter planes. Second: measures will be taken to strengthen defence. To this end, the cruiser Moskva, equipped with Fort air defence system, similar to S-300, will assume position in the coastal region of Latakia. We caution that any targets, representing a potential danger for us, will be destroyed. Third: Contacts with Turkey on military lines will be discontinued," said Rudskoy.
Unlike the earlier Russian missions which were carried out without any air cover, Moscow has said all its sorties hereafter will be accompanied by fighter jets. It has also been reported that the Russian battleship Yamal passed through the Dardanelles en route to the Mediterranean minutes after Turkish F-16s downed the Russian aircraft.
Ankara insists Moscow's warplane violated its sovereign airspace. But Russian authorities say the fighter jet was cruising in Syrian territory when it was shot.
Meanwhile, as the diplomatic situation worsens, and Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged "serious consequences", Nato and the UN have called for calm in the volatile Syria-Turkey border region. Stephane Dujarrric, spokesperson for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, told reporters: "He [Ban] hopes that a credible and thorough review will clarify the events and help prevent future recurrences."
Expressing "solidarity with Turkey," Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg also called for de-escalation of tension.