Russian warships to escort Syrian chemical weapons - military source

Russian warships to escort Syrian chemical weapons - military source
Russia’s naval joint force in the Mediterranean will be escorting ships with chemical weapons once they leave Syria, a top official at the Russian Chief of Staff told RIA Novosti. Russia will also provide $2 mn to help with the chemicals’ destruction.

According to the latest reports, Russia’s task force in the Mediterranean consists of five warships: the nuclear-powered missile cruiser, ‘Pyotr Veliky’, the missile destroyer ‘Smetlivy’ and three large landing craft carriers, ‘Yamal,’‘Filchenkov,’ and ‘Pobeditel.’

"The decision to provide a ship for the precise task will be taken later, on the basis of the tactical situation in the Mediterranean sea. This decision will be made by the head of the General Staff after a report from the chief commander of Russia's Navy," the military official told RIA.

The Yamal large landing craft (RIA Novosti/Alexey Kudenko)

Russia is providing the UN mission for the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons with an “impressive” amount of aid, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told the Voice of Russia on Tuesday.

“We are now literally on the verge of the start of the removal of toxic substances for their successive elimination…The contribution of the Russian Federation to this process is impressive. We have dispatched 75 trucks by Russian military transport aviation. We have allocated up to 2 million dollars in funds,” Ryabkov said.

Russian armored trucks will be used for the removal of chemical weapons from warehouses and military installations in Syria, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said on Monday.

According to Shoigu, the vehicles have been delivered to Syria along with other equipment that will be employed in the destruction of the chemical arsenal, including water reservoirs, field kitchens, tents and other things the troops will need during the operation.

The allocated money will also be transferred to the UN “in the coming days”, according to Ryabkov.

Earlier the UN mission supervising the dismantling of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal expressed concern over security risks posed by the continued fighting in Syria.

Just days ago there was a report about fighting between Syrian government troops and militants from the Al-Nusra Front and the Army of Islam going on “just 100 meters away” from a chemical facility in the Sukkari neighborhood in the Homs Governorate.

The Black Sea Fleet's landing craft "Nikolai Filchenkov" (RIA Novosti/Vasiliy Batanov)

It has been reported that roughly 1,290 metric tons of hazardous materials are going to be destroyed in international waters on board an American ship, the MV Cape Ray, which right now is docked in Portsmouth being fitted with two special chemical weapons neutralization systems.

As early as January 3, the vessel is expected to head for the Mediterranean to start the neutralization process.

The Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons approved a plan for complete disarmament of the Syrian arsenal last month. The most dangerous components are to be removed from the country by the end of the year. Facilities, which were part of production and storage of chemical weapons are to be destroyed by mid-March 2014.

Syria agreed to relinquish its stockpile of chemical weapons in September amid an international crisis caused by accusations that Damascus had used sarin gas against rebel forces. The Russia-brokered deal put on hold Washington’s intention to use military force against Syria in retaliation for the alleged attack.