Nine Russian and Chinese navy ships sailed through the Bosphorus Straits on Thursday on their way to conduct a joint maritime exercise in the Mediterranean Sea, the Russian Defence Ministry said.
Russia had been hosting the Chinese ships at its Black Sea base in Novorossiysk since Monday, where an opening ceremony was held to mark the beginning of the drill.
"The Joint Sea will feature about 10 combat ships of various classes from Russia and China," the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.
During the journey through the Bosphorus, the ships held communication training sessions and practised joint maneuvers as part of their first co-operation exercise.
"Each nautical mile on the way is being used with the maximum effectiveness for the sake of enhancing the crews’ skills," Russian Navy spokesman Captain 1st class Igor Dygalo, told Russian news agency TASS.
Speaking to TASS, Russian Black Sea Fleet chief of staff Vice-Admiral Alexander Nosatov confirmed the ships had completed their first drill and entered the Mediterranean.
"The first phase of the exercise is over. The ships are getting ready for the second phase in the Mediterranean Sea. All plans have been agreed, everything proceeds according to the original schedule. I am certain that the second phase will be successful, too, and will be of importance to practising joint operations,” Nosatov said.
"A special task force has been formed in the Mediterranean. It is addressing tasks on the permanent basis. There are enough forces and the number of ships is being built up."
The Russian Black Sea Fleet has contributed six ships to the exercise including a missile cruiser, a patrol ship, two amphibious assault ships, a salvage tug, and a missile carrying hovercraft. China has also contributed two frigates to the drill.
Exercises in the joint Maritime Cooperation-2015 will also include live-fire drills and will run until May 21.
The commencing of the drill comes on the same day Israeli, Greek and US naval forces complete a separate drill in the Mediterranean, which was being held off the island of Crete since April 29.
Greek and Israeli submarines, a Greek frigate and a US destroyer participated in the fifth annual Noble Dina trilateral drill which included hundreds of military personnels.
However, the Russian Defence Ministry said in a statement its joint drill with China is not intended to be a threat to a third party, nor is it connected to the current political situation in the region.
Russia and China have been at odds with the West over a number of issues, particularly the West’s support for rebels fighting Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria.
The United States and the European Union have also stood firmly against Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine last year as well as its support for pro-Russian separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.