Russian destroyer Admiral Panteleyev conducted an exercise in the East China Sea to practice protecting oil tankers from air attacks amid rising tensions with the West over the Ukraine war.
Chinese military experts said the drills were intended to show the air-defence capability of Russian naval forces after its proud guided-missile cruiser Moskva sank in the Black Sea.
The exercises also follow massive military drills conducted by Russia on disputed islands near Japan and amid rising tensions between the two countries after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In an exercise in the East China Sea, the crew of the Russian Pacific Fleet’s large anti-submarine ship Admiral Panteleyev shielded a medium-sized offshore oil tanker from airstrikes by imaginary enemies during an exercise conducted in the East China Sea, Russia’s Sputnik news agency said on Monday, citing an announcement by the Pacific Fleet.
The crew detected and intercepted the enemy’s air electronic target, the report said.The Admiral Panteleyev is a Russian Navy Udaloy-class destroyer that had left Vladivostok with the tanker for missions in the Asia-Pacific region, the report said. It trained with a Ka-27PS helicopter in the East China Sea late last month, the Russian state news agency reported earlier.
Li Jie, a navy analyst based in Beijing, said the Russian destroyer’s exercise in the East China Sea aimed to increase its capability of countering potential Western interception of its tankers.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Russian oil tankers had turned off radio signals to avoid detection amid greater scrutiny by the West of Russian oil and gas exports following the invasion of Ukraine and sanctions on Russian institutions, businesses, and oligarchs.
Ship tracker Windward has reported an increase in Russian-affiliated oil tankers “going dark”, a shift that coincides with the rejection of Russian oil and gas by big shipping operators and oil companies, according to the Journal.
“Under the Western sanctions, Russia is worried that its oil tankers and freighters might be seized,” Li said. “Accompanying warships can protect these tankers by detecting and intercepting the enemy’s air target in time.”
Russia was also warning Western countries, including the US and Japan, that it had advanced air-defence capability and would improve it through regular training, even though the sinking of the Moskva exposed flaws in the Russian defence system, Li added.
Military observers have pointed out that the drills are part of Russia’s effort to step up its military activities near the Sea of Japan. The exercises are in an area that includes islands controlled by Russia but are claimed by Japan and come after Tokyo imposed sanctions on Russia for invading Ukraine.
Yue Gang, a former PLA colonel, said the destroyer’s escort exercise was “to show the United States and its allies that the Russian crude oil trade is inviolable” as well as to counter Western sanctions imposed on Russia’s oil exports
He said Russia was showing determination to avoid the seizure of its tankers by other countries.
“The US seizure of Iranian tankers in the past cannot be repeated on Russia,” Yue said. Admiral Panteleyev has strong independent combat capability, including anti-submarine and air-defence functions, a sign Russia attached great importance to the exercise, according to Yue.
Russia was using the drill to display its forces to the US and Japan in the East China Sea near where the two countries had military bases, he said.
By choosing the East China Sea, Russia was also brandishing its close ties with China, Yue said, adding that Moscow hoped China would help in the event of an accident and to balance the US-Japan alliance.