Russia plans to turn a naval facility in the Syrian port of Tartus into a permanent Russian naval base, Deputy Defence Minister Nikolai Pankov said Monday.
Russia, which has been using the facility since the early 1970s, ratified an agreement with the Syrian government last week to permanently station troops and weaponry in the Middle Eastern country.
"We will have a permanent naval base in Tartus. The relevant documentation has been drafted," Pankov said in comments carried by state news agency TASS. Russia's upper house of parliament is expected to ratify the plan later this week.
Russia, which also uses the Khmeimim airbase in coastal northern Syria's Latakia province, is a major ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose military has been fighting militant groups in the country during a bloody civil war that has lasted more than five years.
Russia began a bombing campaign against militant groups in Syria a year ago to help al-Assad's beleaguered regime. Some regional and Western governments, including the United States, have implicated al-Assad's regime in crimes against humanity, including mass killings of civilians.
Friday, October 7, 2016 - 16:23