News / Middle East

    Russia Sends Naval Ships to Mediterranean, Eyes Syria Evacuation

    Russian Navy amphibious landing vessel Caesar Kunikov (2012 photo)Russian Navy amphibious landing vessel Caesar Kunikov (2012 photo)
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    Russian Navy amphibious landing vessel Caesar Kunikov (2012 photo)
    Russian Navy amphibious landing vessel Caesar Kunikov (2012 photo)
    VOA News
    Russia has sent warships to the Mediterranean after some of its senior diplomats said last week that Moscow may call for the evacuation of Russian citizens in Syria if the government in Damascus falls.

    The Russian Defense Ministry said Tuesday that ships from its Baltic Fleet would replace other vessels that have been patrolling the Eastern Mediterranean since November.

    The country's Interfax news agency quoted unnamed naval sources as saying the vessels were bound for Syria "to assist in a possible evacuation of Russian citizens."

    The report, which could not be confirmed, comes a day after Russia acknowledged that two of its citizens and an Italian working in Latakia province were kidnapped late Monday and that their captors have demanded a ransom for their release.

    In another kidnapping incident in Syria, the chief foreign correspondent for the U.S. television network NBC said Tuesday that he and his production crew were freed unharmed from their five-day abduction during a firefight at a checkpoint set up by Islamist rebels.

    Richard Engel told NBC from safety in Turkey that his team's kidnappers were members of a pro-government Shabiha militia loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

    He said the three-man NBC crew was abducted when anti-Assad rebels they were driving with were ambushed by heavily armed men who "executed" one of the rebel escorts.

    Engel said his group was then taken to a series of safehouses where they were subjected to "a lot of psychological torture" with threats of being killed and mock shootings. He said he was told the kidnappers wanted to exchange them for four Iranian agents and two Shabiha members held by Syrian rebels.

    Their ordeal, which began shortly after crossing into Syria from Turkey last Thursday, ended when the captors drove unexpectedly into the rebel checkpoint.

    Also Tuesday, Syrian activists said fierce fighting broke out in a Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus where rebels opposed to Assad have been trying to push out pro-government fighters.

    A rebel spokesman said the Yarmouk camp is strategically significant because it could "open one of the best doors into central Damascus." Residents said that by late Tuesday the Syrian military had deployed several tanks along camp's main entrance.

    The clashes come two days after activists reported Syrian warplanes bombing the camp and killing eight people.

    Meanwhile, the World Health Organization said Tuesday the conflict is eating away at the country's healthcare system, leaving citizens without access to basic services.

    A WHO spokesperson in Geneva said that in some places, including the western city of Homs, there are only a handful of doctors still working.

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    Comments
         
    by: YaValioCacaWates from: USA
    December 19, 2012 8:49 PM
    King Putin, and King al-Assad are two of a kind. I pity Russia and Syria for having to put up with them.

    by: Anonymous
    December 19, 2012 11:02 AM
    The Syrian war could of been over long ago if it wasn't for the Russians. Thousands and thousands of Syrian lives could of been saved. Instead Putin was more concerned about lining his wallet with funding for weapons and anywhere else he could make a few bucks. Now that Putin has shown the world that stopping the Syrian war to save thousands of innocent people, would not be in Russias interest, now Russia must go, and never come back to Syria again. Shame on you Putin, you have blood all over your hands because of Syria. No different than what Putin did in Chechnya, disgusting. Karma is a wonderfull thing.

    by: Michael from: Canonsburg, Pa.
    December 19, 2012 2:24 AM
    We have been mercenaries or should I say MamlukJanizeries for the Saudi Arabian Sunni Caliphate since 9/11/01. We have destabilized or destroyed every Shia leade within a thousand miles of Riyadh. After the Saudi-Arabian Sunni jihadist attacked Manhattan , America responds by attacking the Shia dictator in Iraq. From there we destabilized Afghanistan and now retreat so that the Saudi-Controled Sunni wahabist can control Afganistan+ Pakistan. We eliminated the Shia leader of Libya and established the Saudi-Contrled Sunni Caliphate in Libya and now depose a Shia leader ijn Syria and have plans to attck the last Shia stronghold in Iran at the behest of Israel and Saudi Arabia. We have created a virtual Saladin or Suileman the Magnificent empire for the royal family of Riyadh and it only cost us trillions of dollars and thousand of American infidel lives.

    by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
    December 18, 2012 4:10 PM
    Reports of kidnappings by "Shia terrorists" are spreading, the modus operandi point to one organization. Comments made by Assad's regime, by Iran's leadership, and more importantly by the head proxi-terrorist Nasrallah (Hezbolah..) are in my opinion indicative that Nas.. has deployed his terrorists into Syria to fight on behalf of the Assad gang. Kidnapings of foreigneirs, especially, journalist and western looking people are right in line with Hezbolah past tactics. Given the type of weapons that Nas.. and his terrorists have, their involvement in Syria may be a significant escalation of the conflict, it will lay waste to Sunny muslim communities, as they did in Lebanon.. Such involvement will extend the suffering of the Syrian people; and it is very likekly that they will use Syrian territory to engage and attempt to expand the conflict into Jordan and even Israel. It is now a situation ,no question about it, in which the friends of the Assad opposition need to expand the support provided to the freedom fighters.

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