Russian warship enters Panama Canal, first since World War II

The Russian destroyer Admiral Chabanenko passed through the Panama Canal Dec. 5 following joint naval maneuvers with Venezuela. It marked the first Soviet or Russian military ship to traverse the 80-kilometer waterway since World War II. Panamanian Foreign Minister Samuel Lewis portrayed the Russian canal crossing as business as usual, saying “Here there is no other message than that the canal is open to all of the world’s ships.”

Following its eight-hour passage through the Canal, the Admiral Chabanenko was slated to dock at Rodman Naval Station, once the base for all US naval activities in Latin America. The US handed over the Rodman Naval Station to Panama along with the rest of the canal zone. “The only time a similar event took place was 60 years ago, in 1944, during the Second World War, when four Soviet submarines, after repairs, crossed the Panama Canal from the Atlantic to the Pacific,” Panama’s Russian Embassy said in a statement. Also on Dec. 5, Russia announced it is sending its sole aircraft carrier and several accompanying ships for combat training in the Atlantic and Mediterranean. (AP, AFP, Dec. 5)

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