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Russian warships head for Syria

Russian media reports ships carry more than 260 marines, and Al Assad regime is sinking fast

Image Credit: Reuters
Smoke rises from Al-Safsaf in Homs August 3, 2012.
Gulf News

Dubai  Three large Russian warships were heading for the Syrian port of Tartus a day after UN Envoy to Syria Kofi Annan quit his role as mediator and called for the Syrian President to step down.

The ships were carrying over 260 marines, according to reports in the Russian media. The move signalled a growing unease of Syria’s staunchest ally, Russia, who sees the regime of Bashar Al Assad sinking fast, with sources saying Russia has no more appealing options.

However Russia has denied the claims. Russia's Defence Ministry said there were no plans for the vessels to dock in the war-torn country.

Russia is a strong ally of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad whose country is Moscow's main foothold in the Middle East.

Annan, writing in the Financial Times, called on Moscow and Washington to shoulder responsibility for saving Syria from “catastrophic” civil war. Violence has spiralled out of control in recent weeks as the Syrian army struggles to regain territory lost to the rebels. Protesters in Aleppo took to the streets yesterday to demand death for Al Assad even as violence raged there and 15 people were killed nationwide, a watchdog said.

Hundreds of protesters gathered in the Al Shaar neighbourhood of the country’s economic capital, chanting: “The people want the execution of Bashar!” and “The people want freedom and peace,” an AFP reporter saw.

Heavy fighting in Damascus and Aleppo prompted UN High Commission for Refugees Antonio Guterres to warn of a mass exodus of Syrians from the country.“We all have seen crises of this nature in different parts of the world, let’s hope that this doesn’t evolve into the kind of gigantic outflows we have witnessed in Afghanistan or Iraq,” he said yesterday.

Activists were still counting the toll from Thursday, one of the bloodiest days in the uprising, with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reporting over 179 people. A Palestinian refugee camp was slammed with mortar fire also late Thursday killing 21 people. The UN General Assembly was preparing to vote on a new Arab-sponsored resolution condemning Syria’s use of heavy weapons. While the vote is largely symbolic, it reflects a growing frustration Russia and China for blocking resolutions condemning the Syrian regime.

— With input from Reuters