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 The Daily Star

BEIRUT: Three Russian warships were scheduled to head to the Syrian coastal city of Tartous Saturday, following a three-day “business stop-off” at Beirut Port, according to Russian media. It was the first time Russian ships docked in Beirut during the course of the 2-year-old Syria conflict.

An official at the Russian Embassy who declined to be identified could not confirm whether the ships departed Saturday.

Retired Lebanese Brigadier General, Amin Hoteit warned that Russian warships’ arrival in Beirut Port with the aim of “restocking and refueling” should not become a normal occurrence, TRT (Turkish Radio and Television) reported.

Hoteit stressed that Russian ships had previously been able to go directly to Tartous without stopping off in Lebanon. The reason behind the stop-off, Hoteit reflected, was either so that “Lebanon might become a new center for Russian strategic military bases in the region, or that in the light of the current events in Tartous, Beirut port has become a safer place for Russian ships.”

“The business stop-off in Beirut aims to restock and refuel the ships, and give the crew the opportunity to rest,” official RIA Novosti news agency said, quoting a Defense Ministry spokesman who did not wish to be identified.

Press TV quoted Russian Ambassador to Lebanon, Alexander Zasypkin, as saying the arrival of the ships in Lebanon showed “Russia is making a comeback to the international arena as a naval superpower.”

High security measures surrounded the Russian ships.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 18, 2013, on page 8.