Russian Warships Dock in Venezuela After Military Exercises, Close Pass of Florida

Russian sailors from the Almirante Gorshkov frigate in Venezuela
Russian crew members toast with a traditional Venezuelan drink during a welcoming tour by official authorities in La Guaira, Venezuela, after the Almirante Gorshkov frigate and Akademik Pashin oil tanker of the Russian Navy docked there, Tuesday, July 2, 2024. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

Two Russian ships have docked at a port in Venezuela after conducting military exercises over several days in the Atlantic, Moscow’s ministry of defense said on Tuesday.

The two vessels — Russia’s Admiral Gorshkov, the most advanced frigate in the Russian fleet, and an oil tanker — are expected to remain docked for several days in the Port of La Guaira, a neighboring city to Caracas where the country’s main airport also operates.

The ships had been part of a fleet of four Russian vessels that made a close pass of the Florida coast late last month, before docking in Havana. One of those vessels was the Kazan, a nuclear-powered submarine among the most advanced in Russia’s arsenal.

Several powerful U.S. warships closely tracked the movements of the Russian fleet as it moved near U.S. waters. Three U.S. Navy destroyers followed the Kazan as it traveled into the north Atlantic and back up the Florida coast, as the other ships moved south, U.S. officials told McClatchy and the Miami Herald.

Russia’s movements in the region are the first extensive military exercises in the Western Hemisphere in five years, and their first deployment of a nuclear submarine so close to U.S. shores since the end of the Cold War.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the objective of the mission was to “show the flag and guarantee a naval presence in important operational areas.” After their visit to Venezuela, the Gorshkov and the oil tanker, called the Pashin, will continue their “work” in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, their statement said.

Associated Press and AFP journalists sighted two Russian-flagged vessels docked in the port city. The Venezuelan government has not yet publicly confirmed the visit, although the crew received the keys to La Guaira and took a tour of the historic center.

“We receive (...) these sister ships of the Federative Republic of Russia that, on their passage through the Caribbean, are stopping in our state of La Guaira to rest, share, and express, together with the crews of these ships, their friendship, their solidarity and of course their support for Venezuela,” Vice Admiral Edward Centeno Mass, second commander and chief of the General Staff of the Venezuelan Navy, explained to AFP.

Venezuela is one of Russia’s main allies in the region and its president, Nicolás Maduro, has expressed his support for Moscow during its invasion of Ukraine, although he has also advocated for peace negotiations.

Maduro described his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, as his “big brother,” after celebrating the Russian leader’s latest re-election that he described as “a good omen for the world.”

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