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MOSCOW, March 21 (Itar-Tass) – The Russian Ministry of Defense denied the reports that Russian warships will not tank up in Syria's Tartus and that they have been redirected to Lebanon's Beirut to resupply.
"The reports that Russian warships will visit the Lebanese port of Beirut for resupply and crew recreation instead of Syria's Tartus which accommodates the Russian sustainment center, disseminated by a number of Russian mass media outlets citing an military and diplomatic source, are no more than an invention," the Ministry said an in official press release on Thursday.
Tartus remains the official site of basing and repairs of Russian ships in the Mediterranean. "Indeed, a Russian Navy taskforce comprising the Yaroslav Mudry patrol frigate and the large landing ships Kaliningrad and Alexander Shablin has recently made a call to Beirut recently at Lebanon's invitation. However, "associating this event with the plans to give up the sustainment center in Tartus with the view of seeking new naval bases in the Mediterranean is incorrect, at the very least," the Russian Defense Ministry said.
Earlier on Thursday, a Russian military and diplomatic source said Russian warships would tank up in Beirut, Lebanon, instead of the Syrian port of Tartus where the Russian Navy has a sustainment center /PMTO/, because of the armed conflict in Syria.
"A sharp escalation of the armed conflict in Syria and the speculations around the call to Tartus by our ships are making us look for safer ports for their business alls. One of such ports is certainly in Lebanon's Beirut. This work is underway already.
The source referred to the recent visit to Beirut by a Baltic Fleet task force comprising the Yaroslav Mudry patrol frigate and the Kaliningrad and the Alexander Shabalin large landing ships. "According to the task force command, our sailors liked the local authorities' arrangements for the business call," he added.
The official underlined that Russia was not giving up its sustainment base in Tartus and that it was not looking for new locations of supply bases in the Mediterranean. "Tartus remains the only official basing site of Russian ships. When events in Syria become more predictable, we'll be able to decide on further use of the sustainment center," the military diplomat said.