Russia to beef up naval forces in Caspian
Russia will beef up its naval presence in the Caspian Sea with warships, missile batteries and aircraft, a senior official said Wednesday, DPA reported.
Russia's Caspian Sea Flotilla will add 16 surface warships along with new missile boats and naval reconnaissance planes, said navy commander Vladimir Vysotsky, according to the Interfax news agency.
The force increase would be complete by 2020 and has begun with the deployment of a pair of missile boats and three amphibious assault ships to the the flotilla's home port of Astrakhan, Vysotsky said.
The more powerful forces operating in the world's largest inland sea will allow Russia "to maintain an ability to protect the economic activities of domestic companies", Vysotsky said, in a clear reference to Caspian Sea oilfields being developed by the Russian energy company Lukoil.
Russia currently operates some 6 - 8 small warships in the Caspian, nearly as many as Iran, which operates a few smaller vessels as well.