Russian President Vladimir Putin, second left, has a meeting in the Russian Armed Forces main operational center in Moscow, June 6, 2013.
Moscow says it has dispatched a permanent naval unit to the Mediterranean Sea, a move that the Russian president says is aimed at defending the country’s security.
The Russian chief of staff said Thursday that Moscow had deployed 16 warships and three ship-based helicopters to the region.
Russian ships have been making regular visits to the Mediterranean, but the recent move marks the country’s first permanent naval deployment in the region since Soviet times.
Putin said the plan is not meant as a threat to any country and should not be seen as “saber-rattling.”
The Russian president added that the Mediterranean Sea is “a strategically important region and we have tasks to carry out there to provide for the national security of the Russian Federation.”
The announcement comes after Moscow said it intended to resume patrols by nuclear-armed submarines in the southern seas, which is part of a broader effort by Putin to revitalize Russia's military power.
On June 1, a source in the Russian military said Moscow is planning to deploy submarines equipped with nuclear ballistic missiles to southern international waters for the first time since the collapse of the former Soviet Union.
The official at the Russian General Staff, who asked to remain anonymous, told Itar-Tass news agency that an expansion of Russia’s strategic submarine patrol area is going to begin from 2014.
The first nuclear-powered Russian Borei-class submarine was put into service in January.
Putin has highlighted the significance of a powerful military since becoming president last May.