News / Middle East

Russia Sends Warships to Mediterranean

 Russia's President Vladimir Putin addresses Russian Ambassadors during their meeting in the Foreign Ministry, in Moscow, July 9, 2012. Russia's President Vladimir Putin addresses Russian Ambassadors during their meeting in the Foreign Ministry, in Moscow, July 9, 2012.
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 Russia's President Vladimir Putin addresses Russian Ambassadors during their meeting in the Foreign Ministry, in Moscow, July 9, 2012.
Russia's President Vladimir Putin addresses Russian Ambassadors during their meeting in the Foreign Ministry, in Moscow, July 9, 2012.
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MOSCOW — For the last year, the Russian government has tried to project an image of neutrality in the increasingly bloody conflict in Syria.

Now, it may be sending a signal of support to its longtime ally, President Bashar al-Assad, by sending warships to the area. Russia may also want to protect its forces at its Tartus naval base.

A flotilla of Russian Navy ships set sail Tuesday for the Mediterranean, where Russia maintains a small base at Tartus, Syria.

A destroyer and three landing ships left the Arctic port of Severomorsk. A second destroyer left Russia’s base at Sevastopol, Ukraine. And Interfax reported that more warships from the Baltic Fleet, based in St. Petersburg, are preparing to join the flotilla.

The warships set sail the day after Russia’s President Vladimir Putin accused the West of “missile bomb democracy.”

In a key policy speech to top Russian diplomats gathered in Moscow, he accused the West of using deception to gain political advantage.

“This can be seen from the so-called humanitarian operations, from exports of the ‘missile-bomb’ democracy, and intervention in internal conflicts, including those bred by the ‘Arab spring’,” said the president.

Putin’s hardline rhetoric came as Syrian opposition groups have come to Moscow to lobby the Kremlin to stop supporting Syria's President Assad.

While briefing reporters, Basma Kodmani, a member of the executive bureau of the Syrian National Council, appealed to Russia to help Syrians turn the page and switch to a new democratic system.
 
The Kremlin and Syria’s opposition share common ground - a fear of chaos, anarchy and religious radicalism, she said.

During the Assad family’s 40-year rule of Syria, thousands of Syrians studied in Moscow and many married Russians.

Munzer Mahos, a member of the Syrian National Committee, started to speak in Russian to reporters before switching to Arabic.

“We consider Russia our friend, our historical ally. The former Soviet Union and now Russia have done a lot for us. We have maintained a long-time solid friendship, so this is not about pushing Russia aside,” he said.

On Wednesday, the Syrian opposition members are to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. The Syrians said they would not ask Russia to give asylum to President Assad and his family.

One opposition member, Mahmoud al-Hamza, told reporters that the opposition National Council opposes granting asylum to the Syrian president. He charged that Assad “has stained his hands with the blood of the Syrian people.”

Russian diplomats say the Syrian president has not asked for asylum. They say that Russia’s relations with Syria are not tied to the Assad family remaining in power.

On Monday, another Syrian opposition group, the Democratic Forum, met with Foreign Minister Lavrov.

Afterwards, one member of the group, Hazem Nahar, warned the Kremlin to stop sitting on the fence.

“The more you wait, the greater the risk Islamists will come to power in Syria,” he said.

Looking to a post-Assad future, he warned: “If Russia does not change its position, Syria will stop being its ally.”

But, with Russian Navy ships from three Russian fleets now steaming toward Syria’s coast, the Kremlin seems to be sending a clear signal that it will stand by Assad.

James Brooke

A foreign correspondent who has reported from five continents, Brooke, known universally as Jim, is the Voice of America bureau chief for Russia and former Soviet Union countries. From his base in Moscow, Jim roams Russia and Russia’s southern neighbors.

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Comments page of 2
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by: AJ from: Central Florida
July 10, 2012 2:05 PM
Putin has no choice but to send aid to Assad. If Assad's regime falls then Putin will have few other fellow Dictators.. err "Democracies" with whom to conspire and rely upon.

In Response

by: FromRussia
July 10, 2012 2:44 PM
@AJ

Tell that to your fellow dictators in Yemen, Saudi Arabia and all those terrorist supporting nations you are so afraid to upset.


by: Farnborough from: UK
July 10, 2012 2:02 PM
Remember, the Russians hate the Turkies (someone here called them the Foul Fowls...) so, this Russian Naval move is designed to check Erdogan and his Islamists from increased intervention in Syria... pay attention to how fast the Islamists turkies forgot the downed F-4 and the the two pilots without an ejection seats... and note how fast they withdraw their forces from the border with Syria

In Response

by: Mustafa from: Izmir Turkey
July 10, 2012 3:40 PM
first of all... its not "turkies" its Turks... and we are not some ugly birds who can not fly... second of all, why did you not report about the atrocities the British brought on the region?


by: Andi Chin from: LA
July 10, 2012 1:47 PM
Sending ships does not mean anything. USA send ships also. It's just from the American point of view - Russia supports. But sending ships in case of Assad collapse, coul dbe treated as help for opposition.

In Response

by: Anonymous
July 10, 2012 3:07 PM
@Andi

Sending ships is a Sicilian message)) It means Turkish and NATO ambitions for Syria Iran and Cspian oil and gas are sleeping with the fishes... Just like that F-4R Phantom.

In Response

by: Anonymous
July 10, 2012 2:53 PM
The dismal state of Russian fleet is a mantra that NATO folks like to repeat after the Collapse of USSR but I got new for you -- it is no longer in dismal state and is being actively rebuilt.

And another thing 58th army was also in DISMAL state when it annihilated American And ISraeli traineda and equipped Gergian army. So you better hope and pray that we are in as dsimal state as you think cus when tactical nukes starting hitting near your fleet you will not know what hit you.

In Response

by: Ed the C from: The Carolinas
July 10, 2012 2:39 PM
I'm a little surprised that Russia could manage to get the ships underway, given the dismal state of their fleet. I wonder how many will have to be towed home?

Comments page of 2
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