Russia flotilla to visit Syria by year-end: report

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Russia's only aircraft carrier and its most modern anti-submarine destroyer will lead a powerful flotilla on a rare port call to Syria before the end of the year, a military source said on Tuesday.

The Northern Fleet contingent has undergone last preparations at its Russian base and will set sail in early December, an unnamed defence ministry official told the ITAR-TASS news agency.

The flotilla will reach the little-used Russian base in the port of Tartus by New Year's Eve on a mission that was planned in advance and has no direct relation to Syria's intensifying standoff with the West, the official said.

"Our ships' visit to Syria was planned in advance and has no relation to the current events in Syria," the news agency quoted the defence official as saying.

The Izvestia daily carried a similar report on Monday. That reported however said the port call would not take place until the spring.

© 2011 AFP

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