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The Russian military is expanding its tiny naval facility at Tartus on the Syrian coast to handle bigger warships and transport vessels amid a general buildup of Russian forces in territory controlled by Syrian President Bashar Assad, the Kommersant newspaper reported Monday, citing military sources.
The news broke as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew with his military and intelligence chiefs to Moscow on Monday to meet with President Vladimir Putin and discuss ways to prevent accidental clashes of Russian and Israeli forces operating in Syria.
Russia in recent weeks has wrong-footed Israel, the U.S. and Europe by beefing up its supply of military hardware to the Syrian government. News reports have alleged that Russia has deployed forces such as Su-30 fighter jets, tanks, armored vehicles and troops to a government-controlled airfield in Latakia.
To better sustain and supply both its own forces and the Syrian government’s, Russia has deployed some 1,700 military specialists to its small naval repair station at Tartus, 90 kilometers to the south of Latakia — a dramatic increase in personnel at a facility that until recently was staffed by a handful of military men and civilian contractors, Kommersant reported.
“They are outfitting and guarding the facility, and are restructuring the dock,” an unidentified soldier stationed at Tartus told Kommersant, adding that the specialists should be rotated out of Syria in three months.
This was confirmed by an unidentified source in Russia’s General Staff, the military’s highest command authority, Kommersant reported. The General Staff source said that the expansion of Tartus into a full-scale naval base was not connected with any imminent Russian intervention in Syria’s civil war...............
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