Russian warships are being deployed off the Syrian coast in the Mediterranean Sea to deter any military intervention by the Western states in the Arab country, a report says. Citing a Russian diplomat, The Sunday Times said that Russia has sent five landing ships, carrying military vehicles and hundreds of marines, as well as combat vessels in the eastern Mediterranean recently. “Russia should be prepared for any developments, as it believes the situation in Syria might reach its peak before Easter,” the Times quoted the diplomatic source as saying on condition of anonymity. The diplomat added that the presence of the Russian marines near the Syrian waters will deter “the West from deploying ground forces” in Syria to help militants fighting the government forces.
Russia, however, says the ships have been deployed to participate in a drill to "improve the management, maintenance and testing of the interaction of naval forces.”Last month, Russia sent a warship carrying a marines unit to Syria's Mediterranean port of Tartus, where Moscow has a naval base. Citing military sources, Russian media reported on December 30 that the Novocherkassk landing ship left the port of Novorossiisk in the Black Sea and is due to arrive at Tartus in the early days of January. Two other warships, the Azov and Nikolai Filchenkov, have also reportedly been dispatched to Syria from Russian naval bases since December 29. In Mid-December, Russia's Defense Ministry announced that a fleet of Russian warships had been sent from the Baltic port of Baltiysk to the Mediterranean Sea near the Syrian waters. It said the flotilla includes the frigate Yaroslav Mudry, the landing ships Kaliningrad and Alexander Shabalin, as well as two other vessels. Russia, a key ally of Syria, has a small naval maintenance facility at Tartus port. This is while, the US on Friday began to deploy troops and equipment to Turkey to oversee the deployment of US and European Patriot surface-to-air missile batteries to the Turkish-Syrian border. Syria, Russia and Iran say the deployments could spark an eventual military action by NATO. DB/MA