Russia may send warships and troops to Syria to protect its logistics base in Tartous, according to a Russian military source.
“It is quite possible that warships of the [Russian] Black Sea Fleet may go to the Mediterranean Sea in case it is necessary to protect the Russian logistics base in Tartous, Syria, since is a zone of the Fleet’s responsibility,” a source in the Russian General Staff told the Itar-Tass government news agency.
“Several warships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, including large landing ships with marines aboard, are fully prepared to take to the sea,” the source said.
The plan was announced shortly after France said the West mulled military interference in the Syrian crisis to unseat President Bashar Al-Assad.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Wednesday that his country would push for a U.N. Security Council resolution to enforce Syria’s compliance with special envoy Kofi Annan’s six-point plan under the threat of sanctions, legal action or even military intervention. He said the imposition of no-fly zones was being considered as “one of the options” to “stop this regime of death and blood.”
The U.S. television network NBC quoted intelligence sources on Friday as saying that a Russian warship carrying a small contingent of troops was already en route to Tartus to provide security for the installation. However, the Russian General Staff source denied the report.
A group of Russian warships led by the Admiral Kuznetsov heavy aircraft carrying cruiser visited Tartous in January to replenish supplies and give maintenance to ship systems.
A few days earlier U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that Russia was supplying attack helicopters to Syria, an allegation strongly denied by Russia’s Foreign Ministry. The State Department later backed away, saying that Ms Clinton was speaking about helicopters being refurbished in Russia and returned to Syria.
Asked about Ms Clinton’s statement Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said:
“Russia is completing deliveries under contracts signed and paid for long ago. All these contracts involve only air defence systems… We don’t provide Syria or anyone else with systems that are used against peaceful demonstrators, unlike the United States, which regularly supplies such equipment to the region.”
Keywords: Syria crisis