Russia sends battle group to Mediterranean, NATO beefs up military deployment on Russian border
Once Syria's commercial hub, Aleppo has been divided by rebel groups in the east and regime forces in the west since violence erupted there in 2012. Photograph: (AFP)
The Russian Foreign Ministry dismissed as absurd suggestions from the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) that a Russian carrier battle group (CBG) in the Mediterranean would join the bombardment of Syria's Aleppo, the RIA Novosti reported on Thursday.
RIA cited the Rusian ministry as saying NATO had no reason to worry about the CBG and that the Russian air force had not flown any bombing runs in Aleppo for nine days.
NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg warned on Tuesday that the ships, headed for Syria, could be used to target civilians in the besieged city of Aleppo and to launch more air strikes.
Andrei Kelin, a senior Russian Foreign Ministry official, told RIA Stoltenberg's statement was unhelpful.
"The concerns are not based on anything as our planes have not come near Aleppo for nine days. Our battle group is in the Mediterranean. Our ships have always had a presence there," said Kelin.
"Why make some spurious suggestions and then make some political recommendations based on them? It is of course absurd."
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has questioned Russia's statements about a moratorium on bombing Aleppo, saying the city has been hit by strikes since a lull in fighting ended on Saturday.
NATO's military response
NATO's secretary-general announced on Wednesday, October 26, that the alliance would strengthen its presence in the Black Sea, as several nations confirmed they would contribute to a Romanian-led multinational brigade there.
Britain said it would send fighter jets to Romania next year and the United States promised troops, tanks and artillery to Poland in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation's biggest military build-up on Russia's borders since the Cold War.
Germany, Canada and other NATO allies also pledged forces at a defence ministers' meeting in Brussels on the same day as two Russian warships armed with cruise missiles entered the Baltic Sea between Sweden and Denmark, underscoring East-West tensions.