Russian ships have left the Tartus naval base in Syria, Interfax news agency quoted a Russian lawmaker as saying on Thursday as the US continues its massive military buildup in the region, the biggest since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Moscow has also reportedly withdrawn support for Assad following threats by the United States to punish Syria’s dictator for the use of chemical weapons against civilians in the town of Douma last Saturday. There is now increasing talk about post-Assad Syria, according to these reports.
Vladimir Shamanov, chairman of the Russian defense committee of the lower house of parliament, said the vessels had left the Mediterranean base for their own safety, adding that “this is normal practice” when there are threats of an attack, the news agency reported.
The Kremlin meanwhile called for avoiding any further steps that risk increasing the tension, adding that Russian officials are in close communication with the White House.
The Tartus naval base is Russia’s second largest military base in Syria after the Humeimim airbase which the Russian forces use to conduct airstrikes in support of the Assad regime against the FSA.
The BBC on Friday said that a strike group, headed by the aircraft carrier USS Harry S Truman and including destroyer warships, is heading to the Mediterranean.
Blood and urine samples from last Saturday’s deadly attack in Douma have tested positive for chemical weapons, NBC news network quoted two US officials familiar with the intelligence as saying. The samples were taken from the victims who arrived in northern Syria after they were forcibly displaced from eastern Ghouta in the wake of a brutal onslaught on the Damascus suburb by the Assad regime and its allies.
The Syrian Coalition on Thursday said that the anticipated military strikes against the regime should target Bashar al-Assad and all war criminals as well as the Iranian terrorist militias.
The Coalition stressed that military action against Assad will pave the way for the start of the process of political transition in accordance with the Geneva Communique of 2012 and UN Security Council Resolution 2254 as well as for the formation of a Transitional Governing Body (TGB) with full executive powers. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)