Russia's Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov has expressed confidence that exercises by the Black Sea and Pacific fleets in the Indian Ocean are scheduled and in no way connected with the events in Iraq. The Russian minister said this on Friday at a news conference at the end of a joint conference of the defence ministries of Russia and Belarus.
Replying to journalists' questions, Ivanov emphasised that "a cruise to and a rendezvous in the Indian Ocean were scheduled long ago and are in no manner linked to what is taking place in and around Iraq." The minister drew attention to the fact that Russian ships do "not plan at all" to call at the Persian Gulf. "Our navy has long been tied to its moorings," the minister said. "Many states have forgotten the look of the St. Andrew's flag".
Ivanov called attention to the fact that it is not for the first year that in the army and navy of Russia "we have placed emphasis on intensified combat training." He indicated that "joint exercises with our strategic partner - the Indian navy" - were conceived long before the situation around Iraq got worse. Finance had in advance been allocated for this purpose, according to the minister. The minister refused to specify the types of weapons carried by the Russian ships leaving for the exercises. "Not a single self-respecting army ever comments on weapons aboard its ships," Ivanov stressed.