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Russia Troops In Syria? Report Claims Military Unit Arrives At Syrian Port

Posted: 03/19/2012 3:43 pm Updated: 03/19/2012 4:14 pm

Bashar Assad Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) receives Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (L) during their meeting in Moscow's Kremlin, January 25, 2005. Russia and Syria have reached a deal on restructuring debt owed by Syria left over from the Soviet era, the Syrian and Russian presidents announced after Kremlin talks. (Photo by Salah Malkawi/ Getty Images)

According to ABC News, Russian news reports claim that an Iman tanker carrying an "anti-terror squad" from the Russian Marines has arrived in Syria.

Al Arabiya writes that DEBKAfile, an open-source military intelligence website based in Israel, has reported that two Russian ships have arrived in Syria's port of Tartus.

However, ABC also points out that Russia's Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov has denied the reports.

From the Associated Press:

The [Russian defense] ministry said Monday that the navy's Iman oil tanker arrived at Tartus 10 days ago on a mission to assist Russian navy ships on anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden.

The ministry says the tanker is carrying a civilian crew and a team of servicemen protecting it. A ministry spokesman wouldn't say how many troops are on board.

Max Fisher from The Atlantic Wire notes that the arrival of Russian troops in Syria would make intervention in the country "impossible":


Max Fisher
If Russian boots are in Syria, any kind of intervention will be impossible. Risk of inadvertent conflict w/ Russia too high. Maybe the point

President Bashar Assad's regime has carried out a brutal crackdown on the uprising that began in Syria last March. The UN estimates that 8,000 people have been killed in the past year.

Russia has vetoed draft resolutions on Syria at the United Nations and remained one of Syria's key allies.

Reuters reported on Monday that Syria's arms imports surged nearly 6-fold between 2007 and 2011. According to a report released by the Stockhold International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Russia reportedly supplied 78% of Syrian imports, followed by Belarus and Iran. However, El Pais notes that despite the increase, total arms imports in Syria were not much greater than those to Jordan -- a country of 6 million people compared to Syria's population of 20 million.

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syria car bomb Syrian policemen inspect the site of a car bomb explosion on Mazzeh highway in the capital Damascus on July 13, 2012. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/GettyImages)


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U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice tweets:

@ AmbassadorRice : #Syria regime turned artillery, tanks and helicopters on its own men & women. It unleashed knife-wielding shabiha gangs on its own children.

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Russia says international envoy Kofi Annan will visit Moscow on Monday to discuss the ongoing crisis in Syria. Russia also called for an inquiry into an alleged massacre that took place in the village of Tramseh on Thursday. "We have no doubt that this wrongdoing serves the interests of those powers that are not seeking peace but persistently seek to sow the seeds of interconfessional and civilian conflict on Syrian soil," Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement, according to Reuters. Moscow did not apportion blame for the killings.

Read more on Reuters.com.

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The Associated Press obtained a video that purports to show the aftermath of an alleged massacre in the village of Tramseh, near Hama.

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How do Syria's fighters get their arms? An overview put together by Reuters explains that there are three gateways to the country -- Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq.

Syrian rebels are smuggling small arms into Syria through a network of land and sea routes involving cargo ships and trucks moving through Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq, maritime intelligence and Free Syrian Army (FSA) officers say.

Western and regional powers deny any suggestion they are involved in gun running. Their interest in the sensitive border region lies rather in screening to ensure powerful weapons such as surface to air missiles do not find their way to Islamist or other militants.

Read the full report here.

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syria This citizen journalism image made from video provided by Shaam News Network SNN, purports to show a victim wounded by violence that, according to anti-regime activists, was carried out by government forces in Tremseh, Syria about 15 kilometers (nine miles) northwest of the central city of Hama, Thursday, July 12, 2012. The accounts, some of which claim more than 200 people were killed in the violence Thursday, could not be independently confirmed, but would mark the latest in a string of brutal offensives by Syrian forces attempting to crush the rebellion. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network, SNN)


syria This citizen journalism image made from video provided by Shaam News Network SNN, purports to show a man mourning a victim killed by violence that, according to anti-regime activists, was carried out by government forces in Tremseh, Syria about 15 kilometers (nine miles) northwest of the central city of Hama, Thursday, July 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network, SNN)


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According to the Hama Revolutionary Council, a Syrian opposition group, more than 220 people have been killed in a new alleged massacre in Taramseh. Earlier reports said more than 100 people were killed. "More than 220 people fell today in Taramseh," the Council said in a statement. "They died from bombardment by tanks and helicopters, artillery shelling and summary executions."

Fadi Sameh, an opposition activist from Taramseh, told Reuters he had left the town before the reported massacre but was in touch with residents. "It appears that Alawite militiamen from surrounding villages descended on Taramseh after its rebel defenders pulled out, and started killing the people. Whole houses have been destroyed and burned from the shelling," Sameh claimed.

Read more on Reuters.com.

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Syrian activist Rami Jarrah tweets that Syrian State TV has confirmed deaths in Tremseh. "Terrorists" is often the term used by the Syrian regime for opposition forces.

@ AlexanderPageSY : Syrian State TV: clashes between security apparatus & terrorists in #Tremseh of #Hama leaves large numbers of terrorists killed #Syria

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@ Reuters : UPDATE: DEATH TOLL IN SYRIAN FORCES' ATTACK ON VILLAGE IN SYRIA'S HAMA REGION IS MORE THAN 200, MOSTLY CIVILIANS - OPPOSITION ACTIVISTS

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@ Reuters : At least 100 killed in Syrian village: opposition activists http://t.co/FG3fJwu8

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Filed by Clare Richardson  |