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Report: Russia sending naval ships to Syria in case of evacuation

Russia plans to dispatch two ships carrying marines to its naval base in Tartous, reportedly to protect Russian citizens and evacuate them if needed. 

By Correspondent / June 18, 2012

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Russia plans to send two naval ships carrying a “large” number of marines to the Syrian port of Tartous where it maintains a naval base, according to a new report. The ships will reportedly protect Russian citizens and evacuate them, along with military supplies, if needed.

One of the ships can carry up to 150 landing troops and tanks, reports Agence France-Presse. Russians security officials have yet to confirm the report, which was originally published by Russia’s Interfax news.

“The crews of The Nikolai Filchenkov and The Tsezar Kunikov and SB-15 rescue tug together with marines on board are able to ensure security of Russian nationals and evacuate part of the property of the logistical support base if need be,” said a Russian official in the Interfax article, cited in an AFP article.

Russia has maintained a controversial, supportive relationship with the embattled Syrian regime, blocking international efforts to sanction the country and providing arms. In the past, Russian military advisers in Syria have trained the military how to use Russian weapons. Syria has traditionally served as Russia's main foothold in the Middle East, and Moscow is concerned about Islamist takeovers wiping away their longstanding relationships with leaders in Syria and the region.

If the ships deploy to Syria, it may raise suspicions among Western nations who’ve sought to reduce Russian support for Syria. At the UN, Russia has stymied efforts to pass tougher resolutions against the Syrian regime. 

Officially Russia says its longstanding support of Syria stems from its desire to avoid regime change, especially one supported by a Western military intervention as happened in Libya, writes an editorial in South Africa's Independent Online. Its concern is most likely that regime change could introduce a new, Islamist government that would be less stable and less warm to Moscow. This fear is likely to be magnified now that Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is the apparent victor in the country’s presidential election.


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