The Northern Fleet’s flag vessel, the heavy nuclear-powered missile cruiser Petr Veliky, left its home base of Severomorsk on October 22. For the last ten days it has been leading a group of vessels from all four Russian fleets in the Mediterranean, conducting different tactical drills, according to RIA Novosti.
The cruiser will probably be sailing in the area after the campaign is finished, as a part of the security around the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi in February 2014, a source close to the Navy General Headquarters told newspaper Izvestia.
The possibility for the vessel to be included in the Olympic security forces is supported by another fact, the paper writes – the cruiser is to be modernized with electronics “in order to support the events of Sochi-2014”, according to documents from the Federal Agency for the Procurement of Military and Special Equipment.
Nuclear-powered vessels are according to international agreements not allowed to enter the Black Sea, but “Petr Veliky” will be able to ensure the safety of the Olympics from the Mediterranean, says former Head of the Navy General Headquarters Viktor Kravchenko. Underwater sabotage is otherwise highly unlikely during the games, Kravchenko adds.
From the Mediterranean the cruiser can cover all approaches by aircraft to the Sochi area and be able to coordinate actions by the Black Sea Fleet, Rear Admiral Vladimir Sakharov says to Izvestia.
Independent military expert Vyacheslav Tseluyko believes “Petr Veliky” has another mission in the area than to protect the Sochi games:
“To use such a heavy vessel in protection against hypothetic threats during the Olympics is counterproductive”, Tseluyko says to Izvestia. “It’s hard to imagine any threats to the Olympics that only a nuclear missile cruiser can beat back. Threats from sea will have to be stopped using smaller boats, threats from air by air defense, and threats from land are generally not stopped using battlecruisers.”
Izvestia has not succeeded in getting any official comments from the Navy Headquarters about using “Petr Veliky” to protect the Winter Olympics.