– Russia sends spy ship to Syria coast: report (AFP, Sep 2, 2013):
Russia has sent a reconnaissance vessel from its Black Sea fleet to the coast off Syria, a report said Monday, as Moscow anxiously watches Western plans for military action against the Damascus regime, a report said Monday.
The SSV-201 intelligence ship Priazovye on Sunday evening started its voyage from its home port of Sevastopol in Ukraine “to the appointed region of military service in the eastern Mediterranean,” a military source told the Interfax news agency.
“The crew has the mission… of collecting operative information in the region of an escalating conflict,” it added. The source said that the ship’s deployment was carried out within the minimum time possible.
The source said that the ship would not be a formal part of the group of warships from the Russian Navy currently in the region and would be reporting directly to the general staff in Moscow.
A source in the general staff had told Interfax last week that Rusia wanted to receive the maximum information about the possible military action in the interests of Russian state security.
“We intend… to thoroughly analyse the tactics of the protagonists in a possible conflict,” a general staff source told the news agency.
Russia has kept a constant presence of around four warships in the eastern Mediterranean during the Syrian crisis, rotating them every few months.
It is also now sending the anti-submarine ship Admiral Panteleyev but the defence ministry has insisted that this is part of a planned rotation and not part of a beefing up of forces.
Russia also has a naval base in the Syrian port of Tartus, an heirloom from Moscow’s close relationship with Damascus under the Soviet Union.
According to Russian media reports, Russian naval personnel have largely now been withdrawn from the base, a modest but hugely strategic facility which Moscow calls a “point of military-technical supply of the Russian Navy.”
Moscow vehemently opposes US-led plans for military action against the regime of Bashar al-Assad in response to an alleged chemical attack outside Damascus, warning it risks destabilising the entire region.