Opposition's hopes fade as Russian warships sail to aid Assad regime

The 11 vessels will set sail to protect merchant ships that are delivering military hardware to Syria

Loveday Morris
Thursday 12 July 2012 14:55
Comments
Mr Assad lost the support of Syria’s ambassador to Iraq
Mr Assad lost the support of Syria’s ambassador to Iraq

Hopes that Russia might distance itself from Bashar al-Assad's regime diminished yesterday as the head of the main Syrian opposition group left talks in Moscow angered and a flotilla of Russian warships was dispatched to the eastern Mediterranean.

In a powerful signal of military might the 11 warships, some of which will dock in the Syrian port of Tartus where Russia has a naval base, set sail to safeguard Russian merchant ships from "interference" as they continue to deliver air-defence systems and helicopters to Syria, said Vyacheslav Dzirkaln, the deputy head of Russia's military technical co-operation agency. But despite Russia's display of support, pressure continued to mount on the regime with news of another high-level defection, as the Syrian ambassador in Baghdad announced he no longer supports Mr Assad.

Russia's announcement earlier this week that it would halt the delivery of new weapons shipments to Syria until the situation there stabilises, including a contract for almost 40 Yak-130 fighter jets, had raised hopes that Moscow might begin taking a harder stance towards its Soviet-era ally.

However Mr Dzirkaln said yesterday: "One cannot possibly speak of us imposing an arms or military technology embargo on Syria." Speaking to the Russian news agency, RIA Novosti, he clarified that old orders, which consisted of "weapons and military technology of an exclusively defensive nature", would continue to be delivered.

Russia was riled last month when international pressure led a UK insurance firm to withdraw its coverage from a ship returning three attack helicopters to Syria after being serviced, thwarting their delivery.

Mr Dzirkaln said the warships would prevent any "blockade" adding, in what appeared to be a veiled threat: "I remind you, there are no limits".

Russia's recent efforts to engage with opposition groups had also led to some hope it may be wavering in its support for Damascus. However, speaking after a meeting with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov yesterday, the leader of the Syrian National Council, Abdelbaset Sieda, levelled fierce criticism towards Moscow, saying the talks had revealed that little had changed and Russia's position towards intervention was perpetuating the bloodshed in his home country.

"The Syrian people are suffering because of Russia, because of the position it has taken, because of its veto in the UN Security Council," he said.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in