Russia to send northern fleet warships to Syria
Russia will send warships from its Arctic Sea fleet for naval manoeuvres off the coast of Syria, a senior general told the Interfax news agency on Tuesday, reported dpa.
"This is regularly scheduled training," said Nikolai Makarov, head of the Russian general staff. "We are not sending the ships directly to Syria per se."
The aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov will be the centre of a battle group scheduled to depart Russian Artic Ocean ports in December for the eastern Mediterranean, he said.
The crew of the Kuznetsov and other ships in the support flotilla spent much of November in local manoeuvres including practice air strikes, live missile launches and navigation, ahead of the voyage, the report said.
The flotilla's sailors will make a port call in the Syrian city of Tartus, Interfax said. Moscow reportedly began renovations of naval installations in the port in 2009.
Russia's Izvestiya newspaper, which historically has had close links to the Kremlin, wrote Tuesday, "The military says that the transfer of the Kuznetsov to Syria is not in any way connected with the military-strategic situation in the region. But experts are sure that the Russian warships will prevent military conflict."
Senior Russian officials have repeatedly spoken out against calls by western nations for an international military intervention against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Russia will not allow an international coalition to force a regime change in Syria, as was recently the case in Libya, they have said.