Missile cruiser Varyag (Photo courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org)
A Russian warship arrived in Alexandria on Monday, two days ahead of a visit by top Russian diplomats aimed at bolstering military and political ties with Egypt.
Missile cruiser 'Varyag' was received by gun salutes and naval officials as part of a traditional welcome ceremony. The first Russian warship to dock in Alexandria since 1992 is scheduled to remain at the Mediterranean port for five days, state news agency MENA reported.
Russia has been stepping up its naval presence in the area since last December when it announced it would establish a standing fleet in the Mediterranean Sea to protect its interests.
In Sunday TV comments, Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdel-Atty refuted as "illogical" media reports of Russia's intentions to set up a military base in Egypt, saying it would undermine the country's independence and sovereignty.
Varyag, the flagship of the Russian Pacific Fleet, is a Slava class missile cruiser designed as a surface strike ship with anti-aircraft and anti-submarine capability, Russian state news agency RIA Novosti said.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are slated to pay a two-day visit to Egypt on Wednesday to hold talks with their Egyptian counterparts.
“The upcoming visit will help us outline the prospects of our [defence] cooperation,” a high-ranking official at Russia’s state arms exporter Rosoboronexport told RIA Novosti on Friday.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy has said Egypt is taking a more "independent" tack and broadening its choices of cooperation, following a diplomatic falling-out with the US after it suspended parts of its military and cash aid to Egypt.