Syria civil war: Russia sends another navy ship to the Mediterranean

The deployment follows a spy ship sent to the region on Monday

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The Independent Online

Russia is sending the naval landing ship Nikolai Filchenov to the eastern Mediterranean, reinforcing its presence near Syria, according to state news agency Interfax.

The news comes after Vladimir Putin's government sent a reconnaissance ship, the Priazovye, to the same area on Monday “to gather current information in the area of escalating conflict,” according to a military source quoted by the agency.

The Kremlin, which continues to back the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said its ships in the eastern Mediterranean guarantee security as the United States considers launching punitive military strikes on the Middle Eastern country for its alleged use of chemical weapons.

The Russian Navy gave few details of the deployment but one unnamed source, speaking to the agency, said,“The vessel will dock in Novorossiysk where it will take special cargo on board and head to the designated area of military service in the eastern Mediterranean.”

Russia's Defence Ministry declined immediate comment.

Nikolai Filchenkov was not among the vessels that the ministry said last month would enter the Mediterranean as part of a planned rotation.

Russia says it will not get involved militarily in Syria and opposes a possible U.S. intervention, saying it would lack a mandate from the U.N. Security Council, where Moscow has blocked any Western-led attempts to mount pressure on Assad.

The acrimony over Syria has overshadowed a G20 summit in St Petersburg this week and there is little expectation that world powers will be able to overcome differences on the matter.

Meanwhile, the Syrian government has sent military reinforcement to a mainly Christian village north of the capital Damascus, where rebels have clashed with regime troops, according to opposition activists.

The forces Assad has sent to Maaloula include tanks and armoured personnel carriers, and they have taken up positions outside the village, still under the control of local pro-regime militias, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Al-Qa'ida-linked rebel factions attacked Maaloula on Wednesday, and briefly entered the mountainside sanctuary before withdrawing late yesterday.