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28 Mar 2024

Russian Navy Enters Warship-Crowded Red Sea Amid Houthi Attacks: Bloomberg

Russian Navy Enters Warship-Crowded Red Sea Amid Houthi Attacks: Bloomberg
Image of Marshal Shaposhnikov frigate / All images are for illustrative purposes only.
Originally posted on Bloomberg
Russian warships from the Pacific Fleet have crossed the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait and entered the Red Sea, the state-run Tass news agency said, venturing into a maritime region plagued by Houthi attacks and crowded with naval vessels.

The detachment included the missile cruiser Varyag and frigate Marshal Shaposhnikov, Tass reported Thursday, citing the Russian Pacific Fleet’s press service, which said the ships were carrying out “assigned tasks within the framework of the long-range sea campaign.” The ultimate destination of the ships was unclear from the report, as was the reason Russia sent vessels to the area.

For months, the Yemen-based Houthis have carried out a series of attacks on vessels in the Red Sea in retaliation for Israel’s military actions in Gaza, forcing many ships to redirect their journeys. The group told China and Russia earlier this month that their ships can sail through the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden without being attacked. In exchange, the two countries may provide political support to the Houthis in bodies such as the United Nations Security Council, according to several people with knowledge of the militant group’s discussions.

The Houthis, an Islamist group, say they’re targeting ships linked to Israel, the US and UK. Yet, they appear to have mis-identified some vessels. Missiles exploded near a ship hauling Russian oil near Yemen in late January. It happened days after a spokesman for the Houthis told a Russian newspaper that Russian and Chinese merchant ships needn’t fear attacks.

The Houthis also fired a missile at Chinese-owned oil tanker Huang Pu on Saturday, US Central Command said, highlighting continued risks to shipping in the seas off Yemen despite the agreement.

Since the attacks started, most Western shipping firms have avoided the strait and are instead going around southern Africa. However, US and UK warships in the Red Sea have been hitting Houthi targets in Yemen for weeks in an attempt to deter the militant group from attacks on merchant vessels, while Iran, which supports the Houthis, has a spy ship just outside the Red Sea. A French ship is also nearby.

Earlier this month, Iran, Russia and China held joint naval exercises in the Indian Ocean, according to Russia’s Defense Ministry. Both the Varyag and Marshal Shaposhnikov took part in the drills, which Russia said were meant to practice “safety in maritime economic activities,” including liberating ships hijacked by pirates.

Russia has also sought a naval base on the Red Sea in Sudan, though a civil conflict in that country may put back those plans.

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