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Sunday, December 30, 2012
Report: Russia Sends Landing Ships to Syria

Report: Russia Sends Landing Ships to Syria
Dec. 30, 2012 - 11:39AM By AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
http://www.defensenews.com/article/20121230/DEFREG04/312300004/Report-Russia-Sends-Landing-Ships-Syria

MOSCOW— A Russian warship carrying a unit of marines has left its Black Sea
port for Syria amid preparations for a possible evacuation of nationals
living and working in the strife-torn country, news reports said Dec. 30.

The Novocherkassk landing ship is the third such craft dispatched since Dec.
28 to the Tartus port that Russia leases from its last Middle East ally,
agencies cited an unnamed official in the general staff as saying.

The reports said the Azov and Nikolai Filchenkov landing ships had also been
sent to Syria from their Russian bases.

The military source said the Novocherkassk would arrive at Tartus within the
first 10 days of January.

The Novocherkassk and another landing ship called Saratov both made a rare
port call to Tartus in late November.

Officials did not disclose the details of that visit.

The Tartus base is Russia’s only remaining naval station outside the former
Soviet Union and is seen as a major strategic asset for Moscow.

Russia has been accused of using the base to supply Syrian President Bashar
al-Assad with secret military shipments supplementing the official weapons
sales that Moscow has made to Damascus since Soviet times.

But recent rebel gains prompted Russia to admit for the first time this
month that Assad’s days in power may be numbered.

Officials have since openly acknowledged making preparations for a possible
evacuation should the safety of Russians in Syria be threatened by Assad’s
downfall.

The three landing ships will be joining what Russian reports said was a much
broader exercise off the coast of Syria involving vessels from three naval
fleets.

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