Russia threat: Vladimir Putin’s navy to create Red Sea base in Sudan

Kremlin defence chiefs insist the move is to designed to “maintain peace and stability” and but security analysts fear the proposals are part of a growing militarisation of the area by foreign forces trying to secure footholds around the Middle East, East Africa and the eastern Mediterranean.

China has already opened its first overseas naval base in Djibouti, east Africa, where the US also has a base and Turkey has established a military port near the Somalian capital Mogadishu.

A Russian base would enable Moscow to monitor shipping movements, including US warships, through the Red Sea between the Mediterranean and the Arabian Sea via the Suez canal.

It would accommodate nuclear warships and submarines and up to 300 armed services personnel.

According to a draft agreement between Russia and Sudan, the “naval logistics facility” would “meet the goals of maintaining peace and stability in the region, is defensive and is not aimed against other countries”.

It will be used for carrying out repairs and replenishing supplies and for the crew members of Russian naval ships to rest.

The draft agreement stipulates that a maximum of four warships may stay at the naval logistics including “naval ships with the nuclear propulsion system on condition of observing nuclear and environmental safety norms”.

In return, Russia would provide free military equipment to Sudan to establish an air defence system protecting naval facilities at Port Sudan.

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Admiral Viktor Kravchenko, the former navy chief of staff, said that Russian ships were frequently in the Red Sea and a naval facility would give them a place for refuelling and repairs.

He said: “It’s a tense region. Russia’s naval presence there is necessary.

“Of course, the operational capabilities of our fleet will be increased.”

Vladimir Putin has recently stepped up his country’s interest in economic and military partnerships in Africa.

Last October more than 40 African leaders attended a two-day summit in Sochi marking ng Moscow’s “return” to the continent as it competes for access to hydrocarbons, gold, diamonds and other resources with the West, China, India and the Arab states of the Persian Gulf.

Russia is a big supplier of weapons to the continent and a potential energy partner with experience of building nuclear power plants.

Sudan is Africa’s largest importer of Russian weapons after Algeria, and Russian companies are also involved there in gold mining and natural gas exploration.

Satellite images appear to show that four warships are already at the site proposed for the Russian base.