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Russia building naval base in Syria - report
Russian magazine reports Moscow planning to turn Syrian port into permanent naval base; Russian Defense Ministry spokesperson denies report
Russian magazine Kommersant reported Friday that the Russian army is laying the groundwork for building the Syrian port of Tartus, in the north of the country.

 

Russia maintained a base in the port since the days of the Soviet Union, the report said, adding that Moscow could be planning to turn the port into a naval base where ships withdrawn from Sevastopol in Ukraine can anchor.

 

Vladimir Zimin, a senior economic advisor at the Russian Embassy in Damascus, confirmed the plans to the magazine.

 

The move was said to be part of Russia's effort to boost its influence in the Middle East and safeguard Syria.

 

”As an official at Russian naval headquarters explained, the creation in Tartus of a fully fledged naval base should help Russia redeploy the naval and supply ships leaving Sevastopol,” Kommersant said.

 

Russian military engineers will install an air defense system with S-300PMU-2 Favorit ballistic missiles at the port to protect Russian naval ships, the magazine reported.

 

”For the first time since the Soviet Union’s collapse, Russia will create its own military base outside former Soviet borders, which will allow Moscow to conduct its own political game in the Middle East,” the newspaper added.

 

The Russian Defense Ministry categorically denied the report, Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported.

 

"This is an absolutely false report that has no foundation whatsoever," Defense Ministry spokesperson Vyacheslav Sedov told Novosti.

 

Russia has also agreed to upgrade Syria's aerial defense systems, which Moscow supplied in 2005, and its fleet of 1,000 T-72 tanks.

 

Syria is also trying to convince Moscow to sell it two submarines and to upgrade its fleet of MiG 29 fighter jets, the magazine added.

 

AFP contributed to this report

 


First published: 02.06.06, 22:58
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