Moscow acknowledges threat to Russians in Syria, only foreign base

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MOSCOW — Russia has been examining the prospect of a military
pullout from Syria.

So far, there have not been reports of Sunni rebel attacks on the
Russian Navy presence, particularly in Tartous. But Russian sources have
asserted that their nationals were quietly being withdrawn from Syria.

Servicemen may be evacuated from the Russian naval base in Tartous if it comes under attack, Navy chief Vice Adm. Viktor Chirkov said. /RIA Novosti/Grigori Sysoev

But officials said Russia has no plans to abandon its naval base in
Syria. They said the base was the only foreign facility for the Russia Navy and ensured operations in the Mediterranean and Red Sea.

“I am not the one to issue orders,” Russian Navy commander Vice Adm. Viktor Chirkov said. “We have the defense minister [for that]. If we have to evacuate the personnel that is currently deployed there, we certainly will.”

In a Moscow radio interview on July 28, Chirkov acknowledged threats to the Russian presence in Syria. The Russian Navy has been operating facilities in Latakia and Tartous and deployed more than 600 personnel.

The Tartous facility, built in 1971, was assigned to provide maintenance and technical support for Russian warships in the Mediterranean as well as Red Sea, Gulf and Indian Ocean, Chirkov said. The commander said Russia would not abandon Tartous, a much larger facility than Latakia.

Russia has been preparing for what was termed a major naval exercise in
the eastern Mediterranean. Officials have provided differing accounts, with
some saying that the exercise would include the Syrian Navy and
headquartered in Tartous.

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