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

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Russian warships sail along the Neva River during the Navy Day parade in St Petersburg, Russia, July 29, 2018
Russian warships sail along the Neva River during the Navy Day parade in St Petersburg, Russia, July 29, 2018Credit: \ 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.

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