MOSCOW — Three Russian amphibious assault ships carrying hundreds of armed navy personnel will briefly dock in a Moscow-leased Syrian port in the coming days, Russian news agencies reported Aug. 3.
The warships are conducting planned exercises in the Mediterranean Sea and will make a port call in Tartus to pick up fresh food and water supplies, the news agencies quoted an unnamed defense source as saying.
“Our ships will enter Tartus to replenish their material supplies,” a General Staff source was quoted as saying by the ITAR-TASS news agency.
“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 official.
Russia has denied that its current Mediterranean exercises involving three fleets are related to the Syria violence and dismissed reports that the ships are being used to transmit arms to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Some Russian military analysts have speculated that Moscow may be preparing to begin evacuating its nationals from Syria as violence there spreads to main cities such as Damascus and Aleppo.
Russian news agencies earlier reported, quoting sources, that Moscow would be sending warships to Syria, but officials have denied those reports in the past.
Later Friday, the defense ministry issued a statement saying there was no plan to send warships to Syria but stressed they had every right to re-stock at the Syrian port of Tartus should they decide to do so.