MOSCOW - Agence France- Presse
Russian President Vladimir Putin cheers during the Tagir Khaibulaev of Russia match against Dimitri Peters of Germany at the men's -100kg judo competition at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
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 on Friday.
The warships are currently 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 defence 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.
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.