MOSCOW – Moscow is sending three large landing ships with marines aboard to a Russian naval facility in the Syrian port of Tartus, Russian news agencies quoted a source in the general staff as saying on Friday.
The source said each ship would have up to 120 marines on board and that the vessels, already in the Mediterranean, would arrive in Tartus by the end of this week or early next week.
The source said the ships’ mission was to replenish supplies at the small Russian maintenance and repair facility, manned by fewer than 100 personnel, according to analysts.
Russia had earlier said it was preparing to send marines to Syria in case it needed to protect personnel and remove equipment from the naval maintenance facility.
Syria is Moscow’s firmest foothold in the Middle East and bought $1 billion worth of weapons from Russia last year, or about 8 percent of total Russian arms exports.
Tartus is the Russian navy’s only permanent warm water port outside the former Soviet Union.