The Russian Navy is returning the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov and its group from the Mediterranean Sea back to Russia, the defense ministry reports. The move comes as Russia begins reducing its military presence in Syria. The Kuznetsov group will return to its home base in Severomorsk, the chair of the Russian General Staff, Army Gen. Valery Gerasimov, announced on Friday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial pullout of military forces from Syria after negotiating a ceasefire deal with Iran and Turkey. He said it offered an opportunity to end the six-year armed conflict in the Middle Eastern nation.
Tensions on the Korean peninsula have been running high since the beginning of 2016, as North Korea has been conducting nuclear and ballistic missile tests in violation of UN resolutions.
The situation has worsened since Washington’s recent decision to deploy sophisticated nuclear-capable bombers at its base on Guam in the western Pacific, and the announcement of the deployment of THAAD missile systems in South Korea.
Pyongyang has repeatedly said that it is ready to battle the US “with nuclear hammers of justice” and that the North has all the resources necessary to battle US “nuclear hegemony.”
In September, Pyongyang stated that it conducted its fifth nuclear test, announcing it is now capable of mounting nuclear warheads on ballistic rockets.
The September test appears to be the most powerful in the history of North Korea’s nuclear program (20-30 kilotons), according to estimates from South Korea’s Defense Ministry and data from various science and technology universities across the globe. The yield of the previous January 2016 test was about 6-10 kilotons. Earlier tests were conducted in 2013 (6-16 kilotons), 2009 (2-5 kilotons), and 2006 (1-2 kilotons).