Three Russian warships headed for Syrian port

The Russian warship Varyag (photo credit: CC BY randychiu, Flickr)The Times of Israel

Three Russian warships anchored in Beirut en route to the port of Tartus in Syria, Sky News reported Friday.

According to the report, the ships carry hundreds of Russian soldiers as well as advanced missile systems.

The reports have given no information so far regarding the ships’ intent.  

Moscow has operated the naval facility at Tartus since signing an agreement with Damascus in 1971. Although it is merely a ship repair and refueling station with a limited military presence, it is the sole remaining Russian military base outside of the former Soviet Union.

In January, a flotilla of five Russian warships laden with hundreds of troops, headed toward Syria, as a show of force meant to deter Western armies from intervening in the war-torn nation, the London-based Sunday Times reported.

Previous reports cited Russian diplomats to the effect that the vessels were being put in place in order to evacuate thousands of Russians who still remained in Syria, if the situation in the country called for it.

However, a Russian intelligence source was quoted in the London Times as saying that the presence of over 300 marines on the ships was meant as a deterrent to keep countries hostile to the Bashar Assad regime — a key ally of the Kremlin — from landing special forces in the country.

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