Russia to base six warships at Tartous, Syria through October

Special to

MOSCOW — The Russian Navy has sent a flotilla to Syria for an
exercise in the eastern Mediterranean.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the Navy was sending at least six
vessels for an exercise in the Atlantic Ocean, Black Sea and Mediterranean.

Russia has sent a naval flotilla of six warships, including the Adm. Chabanenko Udaloy, to its naval base at the Syrian port of Tartous. /AFP

The ministry said the flotilla, sent amid the intensification of the Sunni revolt against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, was led by the destroyer, Adm. Chabanenko Udaloy.

“The ships are headed toward the northern Atlantic,” a Defense Ministry official said.

Officials said the flotilla would conduct an exercise based in the
Syrian port of Tartous.

Tartous, with some 600 Russian personnel, represented the only foreign base for the Russian Navy.

“The schedule includes a call in the Syrian port of Tartous,” another
official said.

In June, Iran said it was preparing to hold a major naval exercise
with Russia and Syria in the Mediterranean. The exercise was said to have
been planned for later in July.

Officials said the Russian flotilla would remain in the eastern
Mediterranean until around October. They said the vessels would make several
stops at Tartous.

“In Tartous the ships are going to top up on supplies of fuel, water and
food,” another official told Russia’s Interfax news agency on July 10.

Officials said the Russian Navy would also be deployed to protect
merchant ships. They said NATO members could decide to impose a blockade on
Syria to prevent shipments of weapons and fuel.

“The fleet will be sent on task to guarantee the safety of our ships, to
prevent anyone interfering with them in the event of a blockade,” Vyacheslav
Dzirkaln, deputy director of Federal
Service for Military Technical Cooperation, said. “I remind you, there are
no limits.”

At the Farnborough Air Show on July 11, Dzirkaln withdrew from a
statement made the previous day that Russia had suspended weapons deliveries
to Damascus. Instead, Dzirkaln asserted that Moscow would fulfill Syrian
orders for attack helicopters and air defense systems.