A Russian naval flotilla of warships destined for the Syrian port of Tartus has entered the Mediterranean, Russia's defence ministry said Tuesday.
"The Russian ships today passed the Strait of Gibraltar and entered the Mediterranean at 1200 GMT," said a defence ministry spokesman, quoted by Itar-Tass agency.
Led by the Admiral Chabanenko anti-submarine destroyer, the three landing craft left their home port of Severomorsk in the Arctic Circle earlier this month. They are due to be joined in the Mediterranean by the Russian patrol ship Yaroslav Mudry as well as an assistance vessel.
The ships will perform "planned military manoeuvres", said the ministry. Earlier in the month a military source said the ships would be topping up on supplies of fuel, water and foodstuffs.
Russia has denied that the deployment is linked to the escalating conflict in Syria.