Putin sends reconnaissance ship to the Med as US prepares to strike Syria

Russia sends spy ship as US prepares for possible Syria strike

Priazovye sails from Black Sea naval base as Vladmir Putin says deployment necessary to protect Russian security interest

theguardian.com, Monday 2 September 2013 09.49 BST
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/02/syria-russia-spy-ship-us-military

Russia is sending a reconnaissance ship to the eastern Mediterranean as the US prepares for a possible military strike in Syria, it was reported on Monday.

The Priazovye left Russia’s naval base in the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Sevastopol late on Sunday on a mission “to gather current information in the area of the escalating conflict”, said an unidentified military source quoted by the Interfax news agency. The defence ministry declined to comment.

Barack Obama said on Saturday he would seek congressional authorisation for punitive military action against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad after what the US says was a sarin gas attack that killed more than 1,400 people.

Russia says the US has not proved its case and that it believes the attack was staged by rebels to provoke intervention in the civil war.

Russia is one of Assad’s biggest arms suppliers and has a naval maintenance facility in the Syrian port of Tartous. Moscow opposes any military intervention in Syria and has shielded Damascus from pressure at the UN security council.

Interfax said the Priazovye would be operating separately from a navy unit permanently stationed in the Mediterranean in a deployment that the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, said is needed to protect national security interests.

The defence ministry said last week that new warships would be sent to the Mediterranean to replace others in a long-planned rotation of ships based there.

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