LATAKIA (Syria), September 26 (RIA Novosti)
Russia’s assault landing ship Nikolai Filchenkov, scheduled to visit the Syrian port of Latakia, has been met by two Syrian missile boats on the border of Syria’s territorial waters, a Syrian Defense Ministry spokesman told RIA Novosti.
The boats were sent to greet the Russian vessel in a welcome ceremony in line with naval traditions, the spokesman said.
Earlier, RIA Novosti sources in Syria’s navy said the Nikolai Filchenkov would call at Latakia on a one-day friendly visit. Russian and Syrian sailors were to hold a soccer friendly at a local stadium.
Russia remains one of the world’s most influential supporters of President Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria, where over two years of fighting between government and opposition forces has claimed the lives of more than 100,000 people, according to UN data.
The administration of US President Barack Obama has accused Assad’s government of responsibility for an August 21 chemical weapons attack outside Damascus that Washington claims left more than 1,400 dead.
Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin, have repeatedly suggested in recent weeks that they have evidence showing the attack was likely carried out by Syrian rebels seeking to frame Assad in order to secure outside military intervention against government forces.
After weeks of intense diplomacy and an almost three-day-long marathon of talks in Geneva between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry, Moscow and Washington reached a breakthrough agreement earlier this month to place Syria’s chemical weapons under international control for eventual destruction.