Russian military officials denied Wednesday that its sole aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, was on its way to Syria to help the Russian military in the conflict against Syrian rebels and the Islamic State militant group, also known as ISIS, according to Russian news site Sputnik. Initial reports from a small Russian news agency based in Moscow indicated the aircraft carrier was preparing to leave a dock in the Murmansk region -- where it was undergoing repairs -- to travel to the Mediterranean coast.
"The heavy aircraft carrying cruiser Admiral Kuznetsov has no long-term missions or other military assignments to look forward to any time soon," Northern Fleet spokesman Vadim Serga said, making it clear that the ship would not be commencing operations in Syria. "The ship will soon head out to the Barents Sea to perform planned combat training tasks and support a naval aviation regiment of the Northern Fleet."
The Russian defense ministry was forced to respond to rumors after FlashNord published a story citing information from Russian defense officials claiming that the Admiral Kuznetsov would support operations in Syria. "The cruiser dock repair is completed at the end of the week, then it will go to the coast of Syria, where it will join the operation to destroy the Islamic State group," said a Russian defense spokesman, according to FlashNord.
The addition of the Admiral Kuznetsov in Syria would add another platform for Russia to launch attacks against groups opposed to the rule of authoritarian leader Bashar Assad in Syria.
Russia has a naval base in Tartus, Syria, where ships from its Mediterranean fleet occasionally dock to take on supplies and conduct small repairs. While the aircraft carrier will likely not dock at Tartus, it would do so if necessary after Russian engineers dredged the seabed and enlarged the dock to accommodate the biggest ships in the Russian fleet, according to Russian liberal newspaper Kommersant.
Bombing operations against ISIS have been ongoing for two weeks, although Russia has been involved militarily in Syria since the beginning of September.