Russia - Apr 28, 2012 - 16:36
Russia is sending a flotilla of warships to its naval base in Syria in a show of force which suggests Moscow is willing to defend its interests in the strife-torn country as international pressure mounts on President Bashar al-Assad's government.
Izvestia newspaper reported on Monday, citing retired Russian Admiral Viktor Kravchenko, that Russia plans to send its flagship aircraft carrier the "Admiral Kuznetsov" along with a patrol ship, an anti-submarine craft and other vessels.
"Having any military force apart from NATO is very beneficial for the region as it prevents the outbreak of armed conflict," Kravchenko, who was navy chief of staff from 1998-2005, was quoted as saying by Izvestia.
A navy spokesman quoted by the newspaper confirmed that the Russian warships would head to the maintenance base Russia keeps on the Syrian coast near Tartus but said the trip had nothing to do with the uprising against Assad.
The paper said the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier would be armed with at least eight Sukhoi-33 fighters, several MiG-29K fighters and two helicopters.
It will also have cruise and surface to air missiles, the paper said.