Strategic movements of the Russian fleet in the Mediterranean are drawing the attention of international observers. Recently, the corvette Merkuriy crossed the English Channel, catching the radar attention of French Navy and Royal navy ships and aircraft that were surveilling it. Its current trajectory is leading it towards Gibraltar (and she could be transiting through Gibraltar at this time or even have transited last night), but it’s not the sole Russian naval asset in motion.
Two other units are of interest: the first is the spy ship Kildin, a unit belonging to the Moma class. Equipped with sophisticated instruments for radar interception and analysis, the Kildin appears to be currently heading towards the area between Sicily and the Ionian Sea.
This detail is particularly significant as the US aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford is currently operating in that region, having been reported south of Crete yesterday.
The other “interesting” unit is the tanker Yelnya, which entered the Mediterranean alongside the spy ship Kildin. The arrival of a new Russian tanker in the Mediterranean might indicate that the mission of the frigate Admiral Gorskov has concluded, and the Yelnya could potentially replace one of the two tankers currently stationed in Tartus. This, in turn, might accompany Admiral Gorshov back to Russia.
The Russian frigate Admiral Gorškov, which was the first to carry hypersonic missiles, has largely focused on escorting merchant ships carrying strategically important cargoes. Among these is the cargo ship Sparta IV, which has established a regular route between Crimea and the Syrian base of Tartus (and appears to be transporting weaponry). It has not engaged in long-range missions nor ventured far from Tartus for extended periods. Since it was said to leave the Mediterranean in August, it’s possible that preparations are underway for its return voyage.
If this turns out to be the case, and if the corvette Merkuriy replaces Admiral Gorskov, the Russian naval military presence in the Mediterranean would be further diminished.