Syria: Russia sends 5 Baltic Fleet warships to Med

Possibly to evacuate Russians living in Syria, anonymous source

18 December, 15:22

    (ANSAmed) - MOSCOW, DECEMBER 18 - Russia sent five Baltic Fleet warships to a Mediterranean location near the Syrian border to replace those of its Black Sea Fleet, which had been stationed in the region since November, a Russian Defense Ministry spokesperson made known Tuesday. The ships left Monday from Baltiysk port for ''a long-term mission'' and a ''series of exercises,'' according to the ministry. It did not say whether they will dock in the Syrian port city of Tartus, north of Damascus, where Russia has its sole Mediterranean naval base. Functioning since the Soviet era, the base provides technical assistance and supplies to both civilian and military ships. The fleet is being deployed ''to participate in a possible evacuation of Russian citizens from Syria should the situation become critical,'' an anonymous source in Baltiysk told Interfax news agency. Preparations for this mission were undertaken ''in a hurry,'' the source said.

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last week announced plans to evacuate Russian nationals from Syria if necessary.

    Officially there are currently 5,000 Russian living in Syria, but that number reaches 25-30,000 when taking into account numerous Russian-Syrian marriages and their children.

    Two Russian citizens were kidnapped along with Italian engineer, Mario Belluomo, yesterday along the coast near the port city of Latakia, in Syria. (ANSAmed).

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