Russian Navy vessels arrive in Cape Town amid COVID-19 lockdown


Two Russian Navy ships of the Baltic Fleet arrived in Table Bay Harbour on Monday morning, but all planned activities have been curtailed due to the COVID-19 coronavirus lockdown.

Whilst in port, the Neustrashimyy-class guard ship (frigate) Yaroslav Mudry (777) and Altay-class replenishment oiler Yelnya will be under strict quarantine. Approval for their arrival was obtained prior to the establishment of the national State of Disaster on 15 March 2020 due to COVID-19 and subsequent 21-day lockdown which commenced in South Africa on the morning of 27 March.

Undertaking an anti-piracy deployment to the Indian Ocean, the two vessels will be in port for two days in order to take on fuel, fresh water, food and other supplies. It is understood that no formal activities with the South African Navy are to take place.

The Baltic Fleet’s naval group comprising the guard ship Yaroslav Mudry, the sea tug Viktor Konetsky and the sea tanker Yelnya embarked on a long-distance deployment from the Baltic Fleet’s main naval base of Baltiysk in the westernmost Kaliningrad Region on 1 October for the Indian Ocean.

In December, the warships took part for the first time in the naval phase of the Indra-2019 Russian-Indian drills and thereafter participated in joint naval drills with China and Iran in the Gulf of Oman in the last week of December 2019. In January 2020 they held anti-piracy drills with the destroyer Harusame of Japan’s Maritime Self Defence Force in the Arabian Sea.

Earlier in March, Yaroslav Mudry and Viktor Konetsky visited the port of Colombo in Sri Lanka for a three day goodwill visit. In that case, the Commanding Officers of the two Russian Navy ships, Captain Victor Vasilyevich Kostriukov and Captain Mikchail Aleksandrovich, were able to interact with their Sri Lanka Navy counterparts.

Named after the ruler of the medieval state Kievan Rus, Yaroslav the Wise, the Yaroslav Mudry is a guided missile frigate commissioned in 2009. Displacing about 4 200 tons, 129.6 metres long and with a speed of about 30 knots, the vessel’s armaments include a 100 mm main gun, SS-N-25 anti-ship missiles, anti-air and anti-submarine missiles, rockets and torpedoes. A Ka-27 anti-submarine helicopter is also carried aboard.

Commissioned in 1968, the RFS Yelnya is a Project 160 tanker that can refuel one ship at a time from either side or over the stern. With a length of 106.17 m and a displacement of 7 230 tons, she is one of four vessels of this type still active in the Russian Navy.

After completing their visit to Cape Town, the ships will continue their anti-piracy watch in the Indian Ocean.

Photo: Malcolm Reid.