Updated: Russia sends warship with ‘special cargo’ to Syria

AFP — Sept 6, 2013

A Russian warship carrying “special cargo” will be dispatched toward Syria, a navy source said on Friday, as the Kremlin beefs up its presence in the region ahead of possible US strikes against the Damascus regime.

The large landing ship Nikolai Filchenkov will on Friday leave the Ukrainian port city of Sevastopol for the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiisk, from where it will head to Syria’s coast, the Interfax news agency quoted a source from the Saint Petersburg-based central naval command as saying.

“The ship will make call in Novorossiisk, where it will take on board special cargo and set off for the designated area of its combat duty in the eastern Mediterranean,” the source said.

The source did not specify the nature of the cargo.

Russia has kept a constant presence in the eastern Mediterranean during the Syrian crisis.

In recent days Russia has made steps to beef up its naval grouping in the region.

The Russian destroyer Smetlivy will soon join the group in the region as well as the destroyer Nastoichivy, Interfax has said.

The anti-submarine ship Admiral Panteleyev has already entered its zone of operation as the flagship of the current rotation of the Mediterranean grouping, a military source has told the news agency.

Already in place in the eastern Mediterranean are the frigate Neustrashimy, as well as the landing ships Alexander Shabalin, the Admiral Nevelsky and the Peresvet.

They are expected to be joined by the large landing ships Novocherkassk and Minsk and the missile cruiser Moskva. The reconnaissance ship Priazovye is also on its way to join the group.

The US already has a strong naval presence in the region and any US military action against Syria is widely expected to be launched from the sea.

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