A fleet of Russian warships continued to steam south closer to the G20 host city of Brisbane on Thursday as experts stressed the show of force was aimed at the world as a whole, not just Australia.
Reports indicate that Australia is sending two additional warships to its surveillance mission, with supply ship the HMAS Sirius joining the HMAS Parramatta and HMAS Stuart, and the HMAS Sydney preparing to also potentially join them.
Defence sources said the four ships, which include the Pacific flagship missile cruiser Varyag, were on a course that would put them in international waters off Brisbane by the time the international gathering gets under way on the weekend.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott played down the manoeuvre, saying it had nothing to with his recent vow to “shirt-front” Russian President Vladimir Putin over the downing of flight MH17.
But he pointedly noted the Kremlin had lately become more militarily assertive.
“We’re seeing, regrettably, a great deal of Russian assertiveness right now in Ukraine,” he said. “So it’s not really surprising.”
In addition to the Anzac Class frigates, Australia has sent a surveillance plane to monitor the Russians.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten blasted the move as “a stunt”.
“As far as I am concerned, this is a distraction from families getting closure by finding out why was that plane shot down, who knows what, who was involved in that terrible atrocity,” he said.
Maxim Raku said Russia had interests in the southern hemisphere, even citing its global warming research facilities in Antarctica, as a reason why it needed to demonstrate its reach far from Russian territory.
“We are trying to widen our base because we have issues like global warming, scientific research in Antarctica, trade and international relations, so why not?”
Full article: G20: Russia say warships heading towards Brisbane are taking part in routine exercise (Sidney Morning Herald)