Russian warship heads to Syria in preparation for a possible evacuation
Moscow officials have acknowledged that citizens will be pulled out of the country should Assad’s regime fall
By Adiv Sterman December 30, 2012, 7:20 pm
The Kremlin is sending another warship to the Syrian port of Tartus, where Russia has a naval base, Russian news agencies reported.
The reports Sunday by the ITAR-Tass and Interfax news agency cited an unidentified official in the military general staff as saying the Novocherkassk, a large landing ship, has set sail from the Black Sea port of Novorossiisk. She was “accompanied by a combat ship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet,” according to a Russian news source.
The Novocherkassk was the third vessel of its kind dispatched since Friday from Russia to Tartus, AFP reported, and was expected to arrive in the area in early January.
The reports gave no information on the ship’s intent. But Russian diplomats have said that Moscow is preparing a plan to evacuate thousands of Russians from Syria if necessary. The Defense Ministry announced two weeks ago that several ships were being dispatched to the Mediterranean.
Syrian opposition leaders reported in September that Russia was completing the withdrawal of its citizens and military personnel from its naval base in Syria.
Moscow has operated the naval facility at Tartus since signing an agreement with Damascus in 1971. Although it is merely a ship repair and refueling station with a limited military presence, it is the sole remaining Russian military base outside of the former Soviet Union.