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Russia to keep military base at Syria's Tartus: Navy commander

(Xinhua)

09:31, July 27, 2012

MOSCOW, June 26 (Xinhua) -- Russia would retain its military support base at the Syrian port of Tartus, Navy Commander Viktor Chirkov said Thursday.

"The material-and-technical support base is designed to assist the Navy's operations in the Mediterranean Sea and the Gulf of Aden. We will keep it," Chirkov told reporters here.

He stressed the base in Tartus has helped lower costs of long-distance operations of the Russian Navy.

Currently, there are 10 Russian warships, including large landing ships, and 10 more auxiliary vessels in the Mediterranean Sea, Chirkov said, stressing that these ships would not call at Tartus.

"Russian ships are not planning to call at the Syrian port of Tartus. They will continue to perform combat missions in line with their cruise plans, which were made in 2011," Chirkov said.

Since last December, Russia has sent several warships to the waters off Syria, including its flagship aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, despite concerns of Western countries that the deployments were related to the Syrian situation.

In January, Russian destroyer Admiral Chabanenko and two escort ships visited Tartus. Moscow said the move was pre-scheduled and had no connection with the situation in Syria.

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