Russian Defense Ministry refutes reports of Syria evacuation

Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a press release that civilian contractors continue to work at the Tartus navy base and blasted media reports about total evacuation as “extremely incorrect.”

“The Russian Defense Ministry really has no military servicemen at the navy base in the Syrian port of Tartus, because the base is being serviced only by Russian civilian personnel” reads the statement distributed by the ministry’s press service on Thursday.

“The personnel are working according to the everyday schedule. We cannot talk about any evacuation from Tartus in this case. Tartus remains the official base and repair facility for Russian ships in the Mediterranean Sea and it continues to execute its tasks in line with its purpose,” the statement reads.

The press service stressed that earlier media statements about personnel withdrawal from Tartus were presented “extremely incorrectly from the real situation’s point of view.”

The report about the total evacuation of Russian personnel, both military and civilian from the Syrian port of Tartus was distributed by the Russian business daily Vedomosti with reference to an unnamed source in the Defense Ministry. Vedomosti’s source commented on an earlier statement made by Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, who told the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper that, “Presently, the Russian Defense Ministry has not a single person stationed in Syria.”
Russia currently has a 16-ship flotilla in the Mediterranean Sea, but none of them has called at the port of Tartus in recent months and there were no reports of such plans. The ships were deployed to the region to fight terrorism and piracy.

The Russian Emergencies Ministry is also continuing the evacuation of civilians from Syria – its planes are taking out citizens of Russia and other ex-Soviet states, such as Ukraine. One hundred and twenty-eight people, mostly women and children, arrived in Moscow by a special flight on Tuesday night, the ministry reported. The total number of people evacuated by the Emergencies Ministry from Syria since the beginning of the year is about 600. 

Source: RT

Russian ship with helicopters for Syrian regime sets sail again

(Editor’s Note: This Time, Russians are sending a Russian flag ship to carry the MI-25 refurbished helicopters and she may be escorted by Russian Navy on her way to Tartus.)

The Alaed’s previous attempt to convey the Mi-25 gunships to the regime of of President Bashar al-Assad under a Curaçao flag caused anger in London and Washington. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the aircraft would be used to kill innocent civilians.

The ship’s new destination is unclear but maritime data show it was travelling south off Norway on Thursday and is due in Baltiysk on the Baltic coast of Kaliningrad, Russia’s exclave between Poland and Lithuania, on July 17.

A spokesman for Femco, the Russian company which owns the cargo vessel, said on Friday that it would arrive in St Petersburg two days later and may then head to the Russian Far East.

Moscow has insisted it will deliver the Mi-25 helicopters in the teeth of western disapproval and it appears likely the ship’s real or eventual target is Syria.

The Alaed turned back 50 miles off Scotland on June 18 and returned to its home port of Murmansk after its British insurer found out it had weapons bound for Syria on board and cancelled its policy rather than violate a EU arms embargo.

Its new departure under a Russian flag will provoke fresh tensions because the Kremlin sent a flotilla of naval ships headed by a destroyer, the Admiral Chabanenko, to the Mediterranean earlier this week. The flotilla is a short way ahead of the Alaed and is destined to call at Tartus, the Syrian port where Russia has a naval base.

On Wednesday, a senior Russian defence official said its navy could be dispatched to ensure the passage of merchant shipping to Syria.

“The fleet will be sent on task to guarantee the safety of our ships, to prevent anyone interfering with them in the event of a blockade,” Vyacheslav Dzirkaln said. “I remind you, there are no limits.”

Rosoboronexport, Russia’s state arms agency, confirmed in a statement on Friday that the overhauled helicopters were on board the Alaed. It did not mention the number, but originally there were three, which are thought to be the first deliveries of a larger batch.

Moscow has insisted that it is breaking no laws in delivering the aircraft, which already belonged to Syria but had been serviced in Russia under a contract signed in 2008. It says the helicopters are in parts and would take three months to assemble.

Russia also accuses the west of hypocrisy, pointing to reports that the CIA is coordinating arms supplies to Syrian rebels via Arab intermediaries.

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AL Observer Mission Teams Continue Tours of Syrian Governorates, Observer Team in Homs Denies Reports of Coming Under Fire

GOVERNORATES/CAIRO, (SANA) – The Arab League monitor mission teams continued their tours of Syrian governorates and areas.

A team of observers visited Bab Hood neighborhood and al-Mazraa village in Homs and the town of Tadmur in Homs countryside.

In Hama, a team visited the National Hospital and Masyaf countryside, while another team visited Salkhad area and al-Karia village in Sweida and met with families of maryurs.

An observer team also toured the city of Banyas in Tartous and al-Bukamal town in Deir Ezzor, with one other team visiting the Railways General Establishment in Aleppo where they were briefed by its Director George Mukabari on the damages caused to the Establishment’s facilities, vehicles and railways by terrorist attacks.

In Raqqa city, a team of observers witnessed a mass rally in one of the city’s squares in which citizens expressed their unity and devotion to Syria.

Arab Observers Team in Homs Denies Reports of Coming Under Fire

The Arab League observer mission team in Homs on Sunday denied media reports that they came under fire.

A statement by the Arab League said that the team in Homs couldn’t reach a place where a car exploded at Bab Hood, leading to the burning of a number of shops and cars without casualties among civilians, and that the monitors couldn’t reach the place because of the crowds there.

The statement added that the observers tried to reach the scene of explosion later, but they heard random and sporadic shootings, so they didn’t go to the location.

By Mazen / H. Sabbagh

Source: SANA

Russian naval flotilla docks in Syria: state media

DAMASCUS – Agence France-Presse

 Russia's sole aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, is seen in this file photo. AP photo

Russia’s sole aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, is seen in this file photo. AP photo

A large Russian naval flotilla led by an aircraft carrier has docked in the Syrian port of Tartus in what Damascus state media hailed on Sunday as a show of solidarity by close ally Moscow.

The six-day port call by the carrier group in the Mediterranean port where Russia has a recently expanded naval base is intended to boost ties at a time when President Bashar al-Assad’s government is under mounting Western and Arab pressure over its bloody crackdown on dissent, the Syrian press said.

“The port call is aimed at bringing the two countries closer together and strengthening their ties of friendship,” the official SANA news agency quoted a Russian naval officer it named as Yakushin Vladimir Anatolievich as saying.

“The commanders of the Russian naval vessels docked in Tartus took turns to express their solidarity with the Syrian people,” the news agency added.

The governor of Tartus province, Atef al-Nadaf, paid tribute to the “honourable position adopted by Russia which has stood by the Syrian people.” The Al-Watan newspaper, which is privately owned but close to the government, reported last week that the carrier Admiral Kuznetsov was escorted by a large flotilla including submarines.

Despite strong Western criticism, Russia has stood by its Cold War ally in the face of a mounting international outcry over the death toll from security force efforts to crush nearly 10 months of anti-government protests.

In October, Moscow joined Beijing in vetoing a Western-drafted UN Security Council resolution that would have threatened Damascus with “targeted measures” if it failed to rein in its security forces.

Source: Daily News