Russia Establishes Seaborne Lifeline for Syrian Allies

Russia Establishes Seaborne Lifeline for Syrian Allies
Tue Sep 29, 2015 18:33:00

US officials and military and rebel sources inside Syria say the Russian military has been increasing its presence in Assad-controlled areas. Washington has suggested that Russia may be preparing an airfield near the port city of Latakia, a stronghold of Assad, just north of Tartous.

While the Kremlin has not acknowledged any military build-up, publicly-available ship tracking data show an increase in shipping traffic between the two countries, more voyages than can be explained by the usual pattern of trade.

Cargo traffic to Tartous from Novorossiisk had averaged about one vessel a month in the period from September 2014 to September 2015, for example. Prior to August, only one ship from Novorossiisk had called at Latakia, another Syrian port up the coast from Tartous, in 2014-2015.

But in the period from Sept. 9 to Sept. 24, at least six cargo vessels that set out from Novorossiisk called at either Tartous or Latakia, both of which are in Syrian government-controlled territory, the data showed.

The foreign-sponsored conflict in Syria, which flared in March 2011, has claimed the lives of more than 250,000 people and left over one million injured, according to the United Nations (UN).

The world body says 12.2 million people, including more than 5.6 million children, remain in need of humanitarian assistance. The foreign-sponsored militancy has displaced 7.6 million people.

Almost 1.2 million people have been internally displaced, and the UN expects another million to be displaced by the end of the current year in light of the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Syria.

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