Russian Warships head for Syria showdown

  • Project 117 Alligator-class landing ship was spotted at Bosphorus, Turkey en-route to Syria on Sunday 
  • The Russian vessel was laden with tanks, ambulances and IED radar after Friday’s US-led Syrian air strikes
  • A RoRo Alexandr Tkachenko was also seen carrying high-speed patrol boats, temporary bridge and trucks 
  • US, UK and French forces backed strikes that obliterated three targets in response to chemical weapon attack
  • Vladimir Putin warned there would be ‘consequences’ to military action against him and Bashar al-Assad   

Two Russian warships laden with military vehicles have been spotted en route to Syria after Friday’s US-led airstrikes obliterated three suspected chemical weapons sites.

An Alligator-landing ship was pictured cruising down The Bosphorus on Sunday as the world awaits Vladimir Putin’s response to this week’s co-ordinated military action against Syria.

The vessel was spotted on its way to the Russian naval base at Tartus on the north Syrian coast.

On its fourth deployment of Russian military equipment to the war-torn country the ship was seen laden with tanks, trucks, ambulances and an IED radar.

A yellow RoRo Alexandr Tkachenko was also pictured heading for Tartus carrying high-speed patrol boats, a temporary bridge structure and several trucks. The images were posted on social media by Bosphorus-based naval observer Yörük Işık.

They come in wake of Friday’s US-led campaign against Bashar al-Assad’s regime and a chemical weapons attack that brutally murdered 75 civillians.

Two Russian warships laden with military vehicles have been spotted en route to the Syria after Friday's US-led airstrikes obliterated three suspected chemical weapons sites

Two Russian warships laden with military vehicles have been spotted en route to the Syria after Friday’s US-led airstrikes obliterated three suspected chemical weapons sites

An Alligator-landing ship was pictured cruising down The Bosphorus on Sunday as the world awaits Vladimir Putin's response to this week's co-ordinated military action against Syria

The Project 117 LST Orsk 148 ship was spotted loaded with military equipment (circled) on its way to the Russian naval base at Tartus on the north Syrian coast, where 11 ships were believed to have fled in anticipation of the strikes

The Project 117 LST Orsk 148 ship was spotted loaded with military equipment (circled) on its way to the Russian naval base at Tartus on the north Syrian coast, where 11 ships were believed to have fled in anticipation of the strikes

A map shows where the ships were seen on The Bosphorus, where they are believed to be headed at Tartus and the three sites targted by allied air strikes in response to the chemical weapons attack 

A map shows where the ships were seen on The Bosphorus, where they are believed to be headed at Tartus and the three sites targted by allied air strikes in response to the chemical weapons attack

The blue Project 117 LST Orsk 148 ship was carrying Soviet BTR-80 tanks, Ramaz trucks and a Pelena-1 bomb radar, used to detect IEDs.

A second yellow cargo vessel was equipped with a BMK-T boat used for building temporary bridges and an array of other military hardware.

The Russian warships approaching Syria come after the United States outlined new economic sanctions in response to Moscow’s continued support of Assad’s regime in Syria.

Nikki Haley, US Ambassador to the United Nations, said measures to be imposed on Monday will send a message to Russia after it blocked six UN attempts to investigate its use of chemical weapons.

Meanwhile French President Emmanuel Macron today insisted the allied forces had not ‘declared war’ on Syria.

He told a French TV station: ‘We have not declared war on the regime of Bashar al-Assad.’ During the two-hour interview he also claimed he had ‘convinced’ Trump to maintain a military presence in Syria after the US leader threatened to pull out of the country entirely.

It emerged that Trump called Mr Macron twice before he shared his intention to strike Syria in a Twitter post. But he failed to call UK Prime Minister Theresa May in the early stages of the operation, giving the French leader the opportunity to claim France is America’s leading ally in Europe.

Vladimir Putin condemned Friday’s strikes as an ‘act of aggression’ that will worsen the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria and have a ‘destructive influence on the entire system of international relations.

But Trump has vowed to carry out more if Bashar al-Assad’s regime dares to use chemical weapons again.

A yellow RoRo Alexandr Tkachenko was seen cruising down The Bosphorus headed for Russia's naval base at Tartus, northern Syria  with high-speed patrol boats, bridge boats and several trucks

A high-speed patrol boat is pictured on board the Alexandr Tkachenko cargo vessel seen on The Bosphorus on Sunday 

A high-speed patrol boat is pictured on board the Alexandr Tkachenko cargo vessel seen on The Bosphorus on Sunday

Russian trucks were seen atop of the yellow cargo vessel in the Mediterranean on Sunday after Friday's airstrikes 

Russian trucks were seen atop of the yellow cargo vessel in the Mediterranean on Sunday after Friday’s airstrikes

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson today defended Britain’s decision to stand up to ‘barbarism’ amid criticism of Mrs May for agreeing to the strike without a vote in the House of Commons.

Mr Johnson said failure to respond to Assad’s use of illegal chemical weapons against his own people would have undermined ‘civilised values’.

He said ‘so far, thank heavens, the Assad regime has not been so foolish to launch another chemical weapons attack,’ adding that Britain and its allies ‘would study what the options were’ in the event of another attack.

But amid fears of revenge attacks by Russia and criticism of Theresa May for acting without a Commons vote, Mr Johnson stressed there was no intention of getting more deeply involved in the Syrian civil war.

Concerns have been raised that a cyber backlash could see vital services including water supplies, gas networks, banks, hospitals and air traffic control affected.

On its fourth deployment of Russian military equipment to Syria the ship was seen laden with tanks, trucks, ambulances and a bomb radar

On its fourth deployment of Russian military equipment to Syria the ship was seen laden with tanks, trucks, ambulances and a bomb radar

Pictured: The Project 117 LST Orsk 148 landing vessel is seen cruising down The Bosphorus on Sunday 

Russian trucks are pictured on top of a cargo vessel travelling towards Moscow's naval base at Tartus, northern Syria 

Russian trucks are pictured on top of a cargo vessel travelling towards Moscow’s naval base at Tartus, northern Syria

Before
After
One of two targets hit at the Him Shinshar Chemical Weapons Storage site was the storage site (pictured) which was hit at the same time by 22 missiles. The astonishing images show what appears to be the main buildings reduced to rubble

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show today, Mr Johnson said: ‘You have to take every possible precaution, and when you look at what Russia has done, not just in this country, in Salisbury, attacks on TV stations, on the democratic processes, on critical national infrastructure – of course we have to be very, very cautious indeed.’

UK opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn branded the UK’s air strikes ‘legally questionable’, forcing the Government to publish detailed legal advice justifying the bombings. Today Mr Corbyn demanded a ‘war powers’ law to ban the Prime Minister from taking military action without a Commons vote.

The official legal advice claimed ‘the UK is permitted under international law, on an exceptional basis, to take measures in order to alleviate overwhelming humanitarian suffering’. Mrs May will face MPs tomorrow.

Asked if there were any circumstances in which he would back air strikes in Syria, the Labour leader replied: ‘I can only countenance involvement in Syria if there is a UN authority behind it.

‘If we could get to a process in the UN where you get to a ceasefire, you get to a political solution, you then may well get to a situation where there could be a UN force established to enforce that ceasefire. ‘That surely would save a lot of lives,’ he told the Andrew Marr Show.

 

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