Russia is sending three military ships with hundreds of marines aboard to a Moscow-leased naval facility in the Syrian port of Tartus.
According to the Russian military, the landing ships, each with up to 120 armed navy personnel on board, will visit the Syrian port in coming days and spend a few days there.
The exact nature of the ships’ mission remains unclear. While Russian news agencies quoted a source in the general staff as saying that they will take on fresh supplies of food and water, some reports suggest that Russian marines will stay in Tartus to protect the country’s staff there.
The ships are currently conducting planned exercises in the Mediterranean Sea and after visiting Tartus they will head for the Bosphorus and the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiysk, a unnamed military source said on Friday.
"They will spend a few days there and then head toward the northeastern section of the Mediterranean Sea" before heading toward the Russian coast, said the unnamed official.
Meanwhile, Moscow has called on major powers to "urgently" replace former UN envoy to Syria Kofi Annan, who quit his post after blaming a lack of international support for his six-point plan aimed at ending the country's violence.
"A worthy candidate to succeed Kofi Annan should be urgently found," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday adding that "in the developing situation, keeping a UN presence in the country acquires special significance."
Moscow blames the Syrian insurgents and West and Arab states that support them for Annan's resignation.
"Unfortunately, the Syrian opposition has consistently rejected all proposals to establish political dialogue. Our Western partners, (and) some regional states which could have influenced the opposition, have done nothing," the statement said.
Russia, along with China, has vetoed three UN Security Council resolutions against the Syrian government and has repeatedly said that only a Syrian solution would end the country's months-long crisis not the foreign intervention.