A Russian warship bound for Syria carrying "special cargo" will be dispatched imminently , a Russian naval source said Friday as Moscow beefs up its presence in the Middle East ahead of anticipated US-led strikes against Damascus.
The large landing ship Nikolai Filenckov will leave the Ukrainian port city of Sevastopol on Friday for the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiisk, Agence France Presse reported. The ship will then head to the Syrian coast, Interfax news agency uoted a source from the Saint Petersburg-based central naval command as saying, AFP reported.
“The ship will make call in Novorossiisk, where it will take on board special cargo and set off for the designated area of its combat duty in the eastern Mediterranean,” the source said, according to AFP.The naval source did not elaborate on the nature of the cargo the ship.
Since the onset of the Syrian crisis in 2011, after Syrian President Bashar Assad launched a violent crackdown on peaceful pro-democracy protesters, Russia has kept a constant naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean and has moved to expand its naval grouping in the region,  AFP reported.
The Russian destroyer Smetlivy will soon join the group in the region as well as the destroyer Nastoichivy, Interfax said.The anti-submarine ship Admiral Panteleyev has already reached its zone of operation as the flagship of the current group of the Mediterranean presence, a military source has told the news agency.Already in place in the eastern Mediterranean is the frigate Neustrashimy, as well as the landing ships Alexander Shabalin, the Admiral Nevelsky and the Peresvet, AFP reported.They are expected to be joined by the large landing ships Novocherkassk and Minsk and the missile cruiser Moskva. The reconnaissance ship Priazovye is also on its way to join the group.The US already has a strong naval presence in the region and any US military action against Syria is widely expected to be launched from the sea .