Two People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) guided missile frigates entered the Black Sea on Monday in a first for the PLAN, according to photos of the ships crossing the Bosporus Strait obtained by USNI News.
The pair is bound for the Russian naval base at Novorossiysk ahead of a planned visit from Chinese president Xi Jinping to Moscow to commemorate the end of World War II in Europe , according to Russian state media reports.
The ships will arrive at Novorossiysk by May 9, according to press reports.
Last week, Chinese officials said the pair of 4,000-ton Type 54A Jiangkai II frigates — Linyi (574) and Weifang (547) — would drill with Russian ships in a first ever bilateral exercise in the Mediterranean in May as part of a exercise schedule agreed to last year.
The frigates, assigned to the PLAN’s North Fleet, and an oiler were previously part of the international anti-piracy patrols off of the Gulf Aden.
While the exercise — Joint Sea 2015 — is part of growing military-to-military and political cooperation between Moscow and Beijing, they could also point to more arms sales between the two countries — specifically the frigates.