Russia to hold unprecedented military exercises in Egypt

Russia to hold unprecedented military exercises in Egypt
Russia has announced it would hold military exercises on Egyptian territory in mid-October, while Egypt denies reports of a possible Russian airbase on its soil.
3 min read
11 October, 2016
Russia has been waging an aerial bombing campaign in Syria for the past year [AFP]

Russia and Egypt will hold joint military exercises on Egyptian soil for the first time this month, the Russian defence ministry announced on Tuesday.

"The joint Russian-Egyptian drills will happen in mid-October 2016 on the territory of Egypt," it said, without specifying their start date.

The drills, called "Protectors of Friendship-2016", will include 500 troops, 15 planes and helicopters, and 10 military hardware units, the ministry said, describing the exercises as "anti-terrorist".

"The airborne delivery by parachute of several Russian airborne troops' сombat vehicles to the desert climate of Egypt will occur for the first time in history," the ministry said.

Last year Russia and Egypt held their first-ever joint naval exercises in the Mediterranean, which included the Black Sea fleet's flagship Moskva missile cruiser.

Russia has been waging an aerial bombing campaign in Syria for the past year in support of the Syrian government, part of the multi-front war that has claimed some 300,000 lives and has seen Moscow further estranged from the West.

Russian airbase

On Monday, Egypt's presidential spokesperson denied reports by Russian newspaper Izvestia and other media outlets that Moscow and Cairo were negotiating a deal on a Russian airbase in western Egypt.

Egypt's Al-Ahram daily reported the president's office as stating that it would not allow foreign foreign military bases on Egyptian coasts.

This was confirmed by military expert Nabil Fouad, who told RIA Novosti that Egypt's military doctrine does not allow it to host foreign-controlled military bases.

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"That is a principal issue for Egypt not to allow foreign military bases on its territory," he said, adding that during the Cold War Soviet military specialists would work at Egyptian military facilities, rather than have their own.

The Egyptian army's media office has also denied the Russian reports.

"The Egyptian Armed Forces has nothing to do with the circulated report of a potential Russian airbase in Egypt," it told Daily News Egypt on Monday, adding that only the foreign ministry and the presidency were authorised to deny or assert the authenticity of such reports.

Izvestia had claimed earlier on Monday that Russia was negotiating with Egypt to rent a number of military facilities, including an airbase in the coastal town of Sidi Barani, 95 kilometres east of the Libyan borders, starting 2019.

The Soviet Union had a small naval facility near the town until 1972, which was used to monitor US naval forces deployed to the region, the report said.

"The negotiations over possible participation of Russia in rebuilding of Egyptian military sites on the Mediterranean coast near Sidi Barrani are quite successful. If both parties agree to the terms, as soon as 2019 the base may become operational," the Russian newspaper reported.

"Cairo is ready to lease it to Moscow because it would use it to pursue high-priority geopolitical goals, which align with Egypt's interests," a diplomatic source told the newspaper.