Russia says is sending two warships to the eastern Mediterranean set to arrive in the coming days, according to an Interfax news agency report quoted by Reuters on Thursday.
As the U.S. and its allies deliberate whether to launch a military strike against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces in response to last week’s suspected chemical weapons attack outside Damascus, the Russian move is likely to raise concerns that any western strike could escalate into a wider conflagration.
While the Russian ships make their way to the eastern Mediterranean, the U.S. currently has four naval destroyers deployed in the region, from which any cruise missile strike would reportedly be launched.
Reuters reported that Interfax quoted a source in Russia’s armed forces’ general staff who said a missile cruiser and an anti-submarine ship would reach the eastern Mediterranean in the coming days because of the "well-known situation" that "required us to make some adjustments" in the naval force, apparently hinting at the Syria situation.
The Russian navy later denied the ships’ movement was linked to the Syria conflict, instead saying it was part of a long-planned rotation of ships, according to Reuters. The navy did not specify how many vessels were en route.
However, the initial Interfax report suggested that the point was to increase the Russian naval presence in the region, not swap out ships, as the navy had suggested.
Russia is a close ally of President Bashar Assad and vehemently opposes western military action against his forces.
As TheBlaze reported Wednesday, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, known for his sharp tongue, voiced his opposition to U.S. military intervention by tweeting, “The West behaves towards the Islamic world like a monkey with a grenade.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov on Wednesday asked the United Nations Security Council to decide on its response to a suspected chemical weapons attack last week only after U.N. inspectors present their findings. The inspectors are expected to be in Damascus until Saturday.
"It would be premature, at the least, to discuss any Security Council reaction until the U.N. inspectors working in Syria present their report," Titov said, according to Interfax.