Russia piles up warships near Syrian coast

Russian constant presence

ISTANBUL (Turkey) - Three Russian warships crossed Turkey's Bosphorus Strait Thursday en route to the eastern Mediterranean, near the Syrian coast, amid concern in the region over potential US-led strikes in response to the Damascus regime's alleged use of chemical weapons.
The SSV-201 intelligence ship Priazovye, accompanied by the two landing ships Minsk and Novocherkassk passed through the Bosphorus known as the Istanbul strait that separates Asia from Europe, a photographer reported.
The Priazovye on Sunday started its voyage from its home port of Sevastopol in Ukraine "to the appointed region of military service in the eastern Mediterranean", a military official told the Interfax news agency.
Russia, a key ally of Damascus, has kept a constant presence of around four warships in the eastern Mediterranean in the Syrian crisis, rotating them every few months.
It also has a naval base in the Syrian port of Tartus whose origins date back to Moscow's close relationship with Damascus under the Soviet Union.
Moscow vehemently opposes the US-led plans for military action against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in response to the chemical attack outside Damascus last month.
Russian President Vladimir Putin warned on Wednesday that any US Congress approval for a military strike against Syria without UN consensus would represent an "aggression".