SEVASTOPOL, June 19 (Itar-Tass) — None of the Russian Black Sea Fleet warships has headed towards the Russian naval logistics base in Syrian Tartous, a Sevastopol source told Itar-Tass on Tuesday.
“All the ships are staying in Sevastopol and continuing to perform their missions,” he said. For instance, the Cesar Kunikov large landing ship is training in the Black Sea; it will return to base soon, the source said.
A source in the Russian General Staff told Itar-Tass late last week that a number of warships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet were prepared to go to Syria.
“The Mediterranean Sea is a zone of the Black Sea Fleet responsibility. Hence, warships may go there in the case it is necessary to protect the Russian logistics base in Tartous, Syria,” the source said. “Several warships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, including large landing ships with marines aboard, are fully prepared to go on the voyage.”
The source strongly denied U.S. media reports claiming that a Black Sea Fleet warship had already headed for Tartous.
The U.S. media said that Russia had sent a small group of servicemen to Syria for protecting the Tartous base. NBC said with the reference to a U.S. official that the servicemen were going to Tartous aboard a warship. The State Department spokesperson said she could not confirm the NBC report.
A group of Russian warships led by the Admiral Kuznetsov heavy aircraft carrying cruiser visited Tartous in January to replenish reserves and give maintenance to ship systems.
Tartous is the only Russian naval base outside of the former Soviet territory – this is the logistics center serving Russian ships on missions in the Mediterranean Sea. The base opened in 1971 under an agreement with the Syrian government.