Russian warships made call in Syrian port: reports

AFP , Wednesday 5 Dec 2012

Two Russian warships have made a rare call at Russia's controversial Mediterranean naval base in Syria to resupply and refuel, reports said on Wednesday.

The landing ships Novocherkassk and Saratov docked in the port of Tartus for several hours but their crews did not go ashore, the Interfax and ITAR-TASS news agencies reported.

"They loaded up on fuel and water and had minor repairs. No shore leave was planned for the crew," a source in the naval chief of staff told the Interfax news agency.

ITAR-TASS said the call took place at the end of November and lasted several hours. The Tartus base is Russia's only remaining foreign military base outside the former Soviet Union and is seen as a major strategic asset for Moscow.

Russia has defiantly refused to cut military cooperation with the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad despite the conflict that according to rights groups has killed 41,000 people.However Russia prefers to term the facility a "point of material-technical supply" for the navy rather than a base and it is too shallow for large ships to dock on shore.

Russia also retains only a small permanent personnel presence at the facility, with no ships permanently based there and port calls increasingly rare in the last years.

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