Three Russian warships have crossed the Turkish Bosphorous, heading to the eastern Mediterranean off the Syrian coast amid preparations for the possibility of a Western military strike on the regime of Bashar Assad.
The electronic warfare ship SS-201 Briazovia led the group, which also included the two landing ships Minsk and Novuccirkask in crossing the strait dividing the major Turkish city of Istanbul, according to an AFP photographer.
On Sunday evening the Briazovia left the Ukrainian port of Sebastopol, where the Russian Black Sea Fleet is stationed "on a mission in the eastern Mediterranean," the Interfax news agency quoted a Russian military source as saying.
Russia has maintained a continuous military presence with a number of warships in the eastern Mediterranean since the outbreak of the Syrian crisis two and a half years ago.
In the wake of a supposed chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburb on 21 August, which the U.S. says was committed by the regime of President Bashar Assad, U.S. President Barack Obama has asked the Congress to approve the implementation of air strikes on Syria. But Moscow has rejected it unequivocally.
Russia is the main support for the Damascus regime, provides it with weapons and assistance from a military base in the port city of Tartous, 220 km northwest of Damascus.
Translated and edited by The Syrian Observer