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Syria on the brink? Russia upgrades major port at Tartous to accommodate aircraft carriers

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MOSCOW — Russia, defying a revolt against the regime of President
Bashar Assad, plans to modernize a major naval facility in Syria.

Officials said the Russian Navy has deployed hundreds of personnel to
upgrade the Syrian port of Tartous. They said the project was meant to
ensure that Tartous could accommodate all Russian Navy vessels, including
aircraft carriers.

Port of Tartous in Syria. /DigitalGlobe

“This will take a few years but the project has not been delayed,” an official said.

In January 2012, a Russian Navy task force arrived in Tartous for its first visit since the revolt against Assad nearly a year earlier. The six-ship force, led by the aircraft carrier, Admiral Kuznetsov, spent three days outside the port. Tartous is too small to accommodate large Russian Navy ships.

“The naval task force has completed its visit to the Syrian port of
Tartous with the aim of replenishing [food and water] provisions,” the Russian Navy said on Jan. 10.

Officials said the Russian Navy maintains about 600 officers and sailors at Tartous. They said Tartous marked the only fulltime Russian Navy port outside Russia.

“Moscow is planning to modernize the facility to accommodate large
warships, including missile cruisers and even aircraft carriers after 2012,”
the Russian news agency Itar-Tass said.

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