DEBKAfile December 24, 2012, 9:38 PM (GMT+02:00)
Russian defense minister Anatoly Antonov denied Monday the presence in Syria of Russian commandos (as reported by DEBKAfile) plus officers and soldiers operating Syrian anti-air defenses (as The Guardian disclosed). At the same time, the Russian Navy spokesman stated that two large landing craft – the Azov and the Nikolai Filchenkov – had departed Black See Fleet HQ at Novorossiysk for Tartus. DEBKAfile: Each vessel carries 300-500 Russian marines with landing tanks and amphibious APCs. In addition, landing craft from the Russian Baltic Fleet with several hundred marines aboard were due to dock any time now in Tartus. Moscow has offered no official explanation for this naval buildup in Syria.