Russia shows off its largest warships at Navy Day parade as tensions with West heighten

Forty warships and submarines, including two of Russia’s largest nuclear-powered vessels, were on show at the Navy Day parade in St. Petersburg on Sunday, the biggest naval show Russia has put up in recent years. Attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin, the parade was described by the state-run media as “the first principle naval parade in the newest Russia history.”

The event comes amid heightened tensions with the West, on the heels of the US Senate approving new sanctions against Russia, and is aimed at reminding the rest of the world that Russia is a maritime force the be reckoned with. Russia's history is marked by numerous victories of the country's "fearless navy," Mr Putin said at the parade. "The country's status as a mighty maritime power was earned by the courage of seamen and navy officers," he said.

“Today the navy not only tackles tasks traditional for it – it also rises to new challenges and contributes to the fight against terrorism and piracy,” Mr Putin said at the parade. The event featured the flagship of Russia’s Northern Fleet, the nuclear-powered battlecruiser Petr Veliky, and the last of Russia’s Soviet-built Typhoon-class nuclear missile submarines, the Dmitry Donskoi. Both were designed in the Soviet Union for long-range, deep-water operations and both are the largest of their kind in the world. Petr Veliky is an active duty combat vessel. It weighs in at up to a reported 28,000 tons displacement.

Dmitry Donskoi, currently not an active duty combat vessel, belongs to the largest class of nuclear missile submarines ever built, the Typhoon class. Those submarines were decommissioned in the 1990s and 2000s. The Donskoi currently serves for testing new submarine-launched nuclear missiles, as well as training new crews. The two legendary vessels paraded alongside newly built ones, such as frigates Admiral Gorshkov and Admiral Marakov. There were many other new ships on display, says Andrei Frolov, editor in chief of the Russian magazine Export Vooruzheny (“Arms Export”).

“We saw peak concentration of the new vessels, the ones built in the post-Soviet era, and that made this year’s parade stand out,” Mr Frolov told The Telegaph. The expert pointed out that this year’s Naval Day parade was hardly the first one in Russia’s history. There were at least two of them in the 1990s, and several of them in the 2010s in different Russian cities. The scale and the pomp of this year’s parade was down to the looming 2018 presidential election and Mr Putin's campaign. “There is no big anniversary or any other memorable date this year” that could warrant such grandeur, he says.

In addition, a little more than a week earlier, Mr Putin signed the new naval doctrine that outlines government policies regarding the country’s navy up to 2030. According to Mr Frolov, the document mostly consists of “slogans” rather than concrete decisions and is aimed at protecting the navy from potential funding cuts. The government is currently working on the next phase of the State Armament Program, covering 2018-2025, and the navy might fall victim of redistributing funds in favor of aviation and ground forces, Mr Frolov says. “This document is a way of showing the navy that the president is with them,” the expert said.


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