Russia's ageing navy still packs a deadly punch

Other News Materials 12 November 2008 05:13 (UTC +04:00)

This Russian warship left the shipyard 25 years ago and it shows: the electronics consoles look like museum exhibits and its hull carries a thick crust of paint from years of running repairs, Reuters reported.

Its shortcomings reflect the Russian navy's many problems, highlighted again this month by an accident on a nuclear submarine that killed 20 people.

But looks can deceive. Hidden beneath the decks of the Moskva cruiser are 16 "Bazalt" guided missiles, which travel faster than the speed of sound and can strike an enemy aircraft carrier group 500 km ( 310 miles) away.

The Moskva, flagship of Russia's Black Sea Fleet, symbolizes Russia's navy: all too easy to dismiss as an aging rust-bucket, it can still pack a formidable punch.

The navy's capability matters now more than at any time since the Cold War because the Kremlin is using it to project Russia's new-found confidence far beyond its coastal waters, bringing it face-to-face with NATO warships.

"I believe we are treated with respect," captain of the Moskva Igor Smolyak told a group of visiting journalists when asked what foreign navies made of his vessel. He was standing in front of a 130-mm cannon at the bow of his ship.

"They treat with respect the flag, the ship and -- accordingly -- our nation," he said during the visit in late September.