Russia, in an apparent display of flexing of its military muscles, has sent a fleet of warships in the direction of Australia, days ahead of the G20 summit in Brisbane. According to The Age, the Australian military is closely monitoring the approach of the Russian naval vessels. In response to Russia’s military advances, Australia has sent two frigates as well as a surveillance aircraft, leading to concerns over tensions rising in the region. The warships are however currently in international waters, north of the Australian coast, Australian defense officials confirmed.
The approach of these Russian military vessels near the Australian coast comes even as the leaders of the two nations, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Russian premier Vladimir Putin met in Beijing on Tuesday. Russia and Australia has had strained relations ever since 38 Australian citizens were killed in the July crash of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over the troubled skies of the Ukraine-Russia border. A total of 298 people perished in the crash that has largely been blamed on Russia-backed militants operating in the area.
In a statement issued to the press, the Australian Department of Defense announced that it is “monitoring Russian naval vessels that are currently transiting through international waters to the north of Australia.”
The statement adds, “The movement of these vessels is entirely consistent with provisions under international law for military vessels to exercise freedom of navigation in international waters.”
Australia sent two frigates, the Stuart and the Paramatta, and a P-3 Orion surveillance plane to monitor the Russians.
The chief of the Australian Defense Force Mark Binskin confirmed that they are watching the movement of the Russian fleet and added that one of the Russian vessels was actually a ocean-going tug that is used to tow other ships.
“Their confidence? One of them is an ocean-going tug. It’s just part of their operation. They are in international waters. They are allowed to do that. They are in our approaches and we will continue to surveil them with air and maritime assets.”
Meanwhile, a BBC News report adds that this action by Russia is not unusual. In the past, Russian vessels have approached areas where a major international summits were underway — most notably during a 2009 APEC meeting in Singapore and the Russian President Medvedev’s 2010 San Francisco visit.
This is being largely being seen as a move by Russia to project its image as a major world power.
[Image Via Wikimedia Commons]