25 Ships, 30 Jets: Russia to Hold War Games Off Syria as Idlib Tensions Rise

Drills come amid report Bashar Assad is preparing to mount a final assault upon Syria's northern rebel-held region of Idlib ■ Kremlin describes Idlib as hotbed of terrorists, says not tackling the problem is not a good option

Russian warships sail along the Neva River during the Navy Day parade in St Petersburg, Russia, July 29, 2018
\ ANTON VAGANOV/ REUTERS

Russia's Ministry of Defense said on Thursday it would hold naval exercises in the Mediterranean Sea from September 1 to September 8 and that 25 vessels and 30 planes would take part, the TASS news agency reported. 

The ministry said the drills would involve carrying out anti-aircraft, anti-submarine and anti-mining exercises. 

>> Syria, Turkey, Russia and U.S. to square off in Idlib with millions of civilians in the crosshairs | Explainer

The drills come amid tensions between Russia and the West over Syria's northern rebel-held region of Idlib. A source said on Wednesday that Russia's ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad, was preparing a phased offensive there. 

Also Thursday, the Kremlin described Idlib as a hotbed of terrorists and said not tackling the problem was not a good option. 

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov made the comments to reporters on a conference call while answering a question about the planned naval drills, which he said the difficult situation in Syria justified. 

On Tuesday, NATO confirmed to Haaretz a large scale Russian navy buildup in the Mediterranean Sea off Syria. Russian media on Tuesday called the deployment Moscow's largest naval buildup since it entered the Syrian conflict in 2015.