The small Mediterranean nation of Malta became the second country to bar the Russian Navy from refueling on its way to join the ongoing fight in Syria.
No Russian warship will be allowed to refuel in Malta, Foreign Minister George Vella told the Times of Malta newspaper Thursday. He did not say why the Maltese government was barring the Russian Kuznetsov battle group; it is also unclear if the Russian Navy formally requested a refueling stop in the first place. Malta’s decision follows an online petition by civic engagement group Avaaz urging Malta to refuse Russia access, according to the Times.
“Malta will not be refuelling (sic) or bunkering any Russian naval ship in the Mediterranean,” said Vella in a tweet Thursday.
Malta will not be refuelling or bunkering any Russian naval ship in the Mediterranean.
— George W. Vella (@MFAMalta) October 27, 2016
Malta’s decision to bar the Kuznetsov battle group follows Russia’s withdrawal of a request to refuel at a Spanish report. The Spanish government initially approved a clearance for three Russian ships to refuel at the North African port of Ceuta, but requested a clarification from Moscow as to whether or not the ships would be used to support “military attacks on the Syrian city of Aleppo.” The Russian embassy formally withdrew the fueling request soon after, according to a statement from the Spanish Foreign Ministry.
— Silver Surfer (@RobPulseNews) October 21, 2016
The Russian naval battle group, headed by the country’s Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier, is currently on its way to bolster President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Syria. Russia and Assad have been accused of engaging in deliberate attacks on civilian targets, including hospitals and aid convoys. The Kuznetsov, a Soviet-era carrier prone to random explosions and break-downs, is Russia’s only aircraft carrier. It became the target of several jokes on social media last week as it billowed smoke sailing through the English channel.
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