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Dahlak Archipelago

In May 1977, during an official visit to Moscow, Ethiopian leader Mengistu Haile Mariam, in exchange for military assistance, promised to provide the USSR with the Ethiopian port of Massawa as a naval base. The leadership of the USSR Navy reacted very well to this proposal, especially it became tempting after the breakdown of relations with Somalia and the loss of the PMT in the port of Berbera. But the port of Massawa was tightly blocked by the Eritrean "separatists", and the second Ethiopian port of Assab was too small, and besides, the entire cargo flow to the country went through it. Then, purely speculatively, on maps and locations, they chose the Dahlak archipelago in the Red Sea.

The Dahlak Archipelago is located in the southwestern part of the Red Sea near the city of Massawa. It is believed that the name of the archipelago comes from the Arabic "Dah'ala", which translates as "the gates of hell." The archipelago is made up of two large ones (Dahlak Kebir, about 750 km 2 and Nora, about 130 km 2) and 124 small islands. Only on the four islands of the archipelago does the population live permanently. Residents of the archipelago speak the Dahlik language. According to E. Ullendorff, the inhabitants of the islands of Dahlak converted to Islam among the first in East Africa, as evidenced by a number of tombstones with Kufic inscriptions. In the 7th century, an independent Muslim state arose on the archipelago. However, subsequently the islands were conquered by Yemen, then intermittently by the Negus of Ethiopia, then by the small principalities of Abyssinia and around 1559 by the Ottoman Turks, who subjugated the islands to the Pasha in Suakin. At the end of the 19th century, the islands became part of the Italian colony of Eritrea, which was formed in 1890. A prison was created on the island of Nocra by the Italian colonial administration.

At the beginning of 1980, the guerrillas of the Tigray Liberation Front (TLF) in Tigray province became active. The maritime divisions of the separatists were increasingly active. In June 1979 at the zuqar island island (Zuqar) units of the Eritrean Liberation Front ( the ELF ) seized a merchant ship Salvatore Walked in Assab port, in the course of his release was a naval battle between ships and Ethiopian separatists. In April 1980, ELA units seized the Ethiopian cargo ships Massawa and Assab and destroyed them on May 9, 1980, when it became impossible to hold them in their power. At the beginning of 1980, the guerrillas of the Tigray Liberation Front (TLF) in Tigray province became active.

The maritime divisions of the separatists were increasingly active. In June 1979 at the zuqar island island (Zuqar) units of the Eritrean Liberation Front ( the ELF ) seized a merchant ship Salvatore Walked in Assab port, in the course of his release was a naval battle between ships and Ethiopian separatists. In April 1980, ELA units seized the Ethiopian cargo ships Massawa and Assab and destroyed them on May 9, 1980, when it became impossible to hold them in their power. In February 1980, an amphibious assault unit with 1,800 marines was sent to the Arabian Sea for military exercises, it is likely to unite with 21 American warships patrolling the Indian Ocean. At the same time, the Carter administration revealed that the United States, in exchange for an indefinite amount of aid, had received prior right to use air and naval bases in three countries: Oman, Kenya and Somalia. At the same time, in Somalia it will be a base in Berber (Gulf of Aden) which was created at the time by the Soviet Union but abandoned in 1977 after a breakdown in relations.

The Soviet Navy could not leave such a threat to its relations unattended. At the beginning of February 1980, the personnel of the battalion of the 55th Marine Division of the Pacific Fleet was alerted. Tanks T-55 and PT-76, armored personnel carriers BTR-60PB, as well as means of military air defense, without any fuss, built up in a convoy.

After the fall of Massawa, the ships of the Ethiopian fleet were redeployed to the port of Assab and the island of Nokra, which automatically entailed the transfer of hostilities to the Dakhlak archipelago. At the same time on about. Nokra arrived from the Navy Massawa military advisers to the USSR. The air group attached to the PMTO and located in the city of Asmara, on February 2, 1990, was forced to urgently evacuate leaving autotractor equipment and all other property at the base. The war came close to the base. In the summer of 1990, Deputy Admiral Igor Makhonin visited the Dakhlak. It was then that the fleet leadership finally believed that reports on the conduct of full-fledged military operations in the Red Sea were not exaggerated.

At the beginning of November 1990, at 933 PMTOs, among others were: 1. Personnel 933 PMTO TOF, consisting of SAF (Soviet military specialists - officers and midshipmen, personnel); 2. Support vessels: floating ship PD 66, diving vessel VM-413 (Black Sea Fleet), fire boat PXK-45 (Black Sea Fleet), tanker Sheksna (BF), -500; 3 Plavmaster "PM-129" (Pacific Fleet); 4. The large amphibious assault ship "BDK-14" (Pacific Fleet) and the combat landing group of the Pacific Fleet Marine Division under the command of V.N. Zhevako, in December she was replaced by "BDK-101" with a combat landing group Lieutenant Colonel Filonyuk; 5. Sea minesweeper MTSC Paravan (Pacific Fleet); 6. Small anti-submarine ship Komsomolets Moldavii (MPK-118) (Black Sea Fleet), which was replaced by a torpedo boat of project 206M T-72; 7. The officers of the air squadron evacuated from Asmara lived at the PMTO. Our military advisers also lived here. The command of the Soviet forces was carried out by the PMTO commander, Captain 1st Rank B. Plenkov. Ships and ships of the USSR Navy were divided into two brigades: 185 - escort and 186 - landing.

By February 1991, Ethiopian troops were completely defeated in Eritrea, Soviet troops on the Dahlak Islands were given the choice to protect their facilities located on foreign territory themselves. In this regard, the Soviet government decided to transfer the Soviet-built objects - workshops, warehouses, a dock - at the residual value of Ethiopia, by signing the corresponding agreement.

According to some reports, from 1975 to 1991. 11143 Soviet citizens visited the country (through the USSR Ministry of Defense), including 79 generals, 5997 officers, 1028 warrant officers, 3374 sergeants and soldiers, and 665 workers and employees of the SA and Navy. The exact number of deaths in Ethiopia in 1977-1991. Soviet military experts and soldiers up to now not been published at the latest data for the entire period of stay were killed (died), 79 people were injured - 9, disappeared without lead - 5 and captured 3 people.




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