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07:14 GMT +3 hours18 December 2014
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Russian Navy drills in Mediterranean ‘unrelated to Syria’

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The dispatch of a Russian Navy task force to the Mediterranean Sea is part of a scheduled exercise and is not connected to the situation in Syria, General Staff chief Nikolai Makarov said on Tuesday.

The dispatch of a Russian Navy task force to the Mediterranean Sea is part of a scheduled exercise and is not connected to the situation in Syria, General Staff chief Nikolai Makarov said on Tuesday.

“We are not sending anything [to Syria],” he said.

He did not say when the exercise would take place.

Earlier in the day a Russian Defense Ministry source denied media reports that a group of Russian warships led by the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier would arrive at the Syrian port of Tartus in the spring of 2012.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier on Tuesday that Moscow was opposed to the imposition of an arms embargo on Syria.

On Sunday, the Arab League approved sanctions against Damascus in the latest bid to dissuade Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime from using violence against protesters. The sanctions include cutting off transactions with the Syrian central bank and halting Arab government funding for projects in Syria, as well as travel bans and asset freezes on senior Syrian officials.

Damascus has denounced the move as a betrayal of Arab solidarity.

According to UN estimates, more than 3,500 people have been killed in Syria since mid-March, when the protests against Assad's regime first began.