Russia's Defence Ministry: Russian navy's oil tanker calls at Syrian port

The Associated Press

MOSCOW - Russia's Defence Ministry says one of the navy's support ships has called at the Syrian port of Tartus.

The ministry said Monday that the navy's Iman oil tanker arrived at Tartus 10 days ago on a mission to assist Russian navy ships on anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden.

The ministry says the tanker is carrying a civilian crew and a team of servicemen protecting it. A ministry spokesman wouldn't say how many troops are on board.

Tartus is now the only naval base Russia has outside the former Soviet Union. A Russian navy squadron made a call there in January in what was seen by many as a show of Moscow's support for Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Russia has shielded Syria from U.N. sanctions over Assad's yearlong crackdown on an uprising, in which more than 8,000 people have been killed.