A Russian amphibious landing ship, the Caesar Kunikov left the Black Sea port of Sevastopol on Tuesday for what a a Black Sea Fleet officer said was a routine exercise at a training base, after media reports earlier this week said it could be heading for Syria.
The Fleet command on Monday dismissed media reports that a large Russian amphibious ship carrying weapons and troops was en route to Syria.
Some Ukrainian media sources reported on Sunday, referring to CNN and other western media, that another large amphibious ship from the Russian Black Sea Fleet, the Nikolai Filchenkov, was heading for the Syrian port of Tartus carrying weapons and marines to defend Russia’s naval facility.
Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice lashed out at Russia over its alleged arms supplies to Syria. Moscow strongly rejected the claims, saying that Russia was not “delivering to Syria, or anywhere else, items that could be used against peaceful demonstrators.”
According to UN estimates, about 12,000 people have been killed in Syria since the beginning of a popular uprising against President Assad in March 2011, which started with peaceful protests but has since grown into a low-level civil war.