Russia dispatches warship flotilla to Syria for manoeuvres
A Russian Naval fleet of 11 warships, led by an anti-submarine destroyer, have set sail to a naval base at Syrian port of Tartous to undergo scheduled manoeuvres until the end of September.
Intended to be the largest display of Russian military power in Syria, the move to send warships follows a recent decision made by Russia to halt new weapons shipments to the country until the conflict has been resolved.
The Russian Defence Ministry declined to disclose further details, however it confirmed that the ships had set out from ports of three fleets and would meet for training exercises in the Mediterranean and Black Seas.
A military source told Interfax News Agency that the flotilla included the Udaloy I-class Admiral Chabanenko destroyer, three Ropucha-class landing craft, the Russian patrol ship Yaroslav Mudry, as well as two support ships from the Northern fleet and Baltic fleet vessels, including the surveillance vessel Neustrashimyy-class Yaraslav Mudri and Lena tanker.
The military source said that the manoeuvres were aimed at enhancing Russian naval fleet readiness and stressed that it 'was not linked to the escalation of the situation in Syria'.
Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said that the US had no reason to believe the Russian move to be out of the ordinary.
"Russia maintains a naval supply and maintenance base in the Syrian port of Tartus," Vietor added.
Tartus is Russia's only remaining military base outside the former Soviet Union and consists of a floating refuelling station and a few small barracks.