MOSCOW, Russia - In a first, Russia has deployed a warship to Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea, right at Australia’s doorstep, causing alarm among experts in the region.
For the first time ever, Russia’s state media confirmed that its 7000-tonne Perekop training ship loaded with weapons will arrive in Port Moresby on Wednesday.
Russia’s Navy spokesman Igor Dygalo was quoted as saying, “The Perekop training ship will make a historic business port call in Port Moresby. This will be the first port call by a Russian military ship in the history of Russian-Papua New Guinean relations.”
He added that the voyage was part of a two-month long mission that included stopovers in Europe and Sri Lanka.
Commenting on the announcement by Russia, Dr Malcolm Davis, a senior analyst in defence strategy and capability at ASPI, was quoted as saying that while “the training ship itself did not pose a threat to Australia, it symbolized the wider problem of authoritarian powers encroaching on the Pacific.”
He was quoted in Australia media reports as saying, “It reinforces Russia’s continuing interest in the Pacific, alongside China, and it’s something that Australia needs to be increasingly focused on. The ship itself is no threat, but the broader intention for both China and Russia to extend their influence, is definitely a cause for concern.”
According to reports from Russia, the warship, with a crew of over 200 naval cadets, will remain in the area until Saturday.
Meanwhile, Papua New Guinea Foreign Affairs Minister, Rimbink Pato was quoted as saying in a statement issued to The Australia, that the port visit represented a “pre-APEC gesture of friendship” by “some 200 young people” on a ship that “carries only basic armaments.”
He added, “We welcome youth from all APEC member economies prior to — and during — this great event for our country. Naturally, we have informed the Australians, our major security partner and close neighbour, and advised them of the nature of the visit.”