August 3, 2012 - 17:44 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Three large Russian landing ships carrying hundreds of marines will soon visit the port of Tartus in war-torn Syria, the Russian military says, according to BBC News.
The ships, each with up to 120 marines on board, will spend a few days in the port, the general staff source said.
They will take on fresh supplies of food and water. Russia has a small naval maintenance facility at Tartus.
It is not clear whether some marines will stay in Tartus. Russia supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The source did not give details of their military equipment - a sensitive issue, because Mr Assad relies on Russian military hardware for his armed forces.
Russian officials have dismissed speculation that their military could intervene in the conflict to bolster Mr Assad's regime.
Heavy fighting is raging in the city of Aleppo, where Syrian government forces are trying to oust Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels.
The three Russian amphibious assault ships are in the Mediterranean now. After calling in at Tartus they will head for the Bosphorus and the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiysk, the unnamed source told reporters on Friday.
The ships, part of Russia's Northern Fleet, are the Alexander Otrakovsky, the Georgy Pobedonosets and the Kondopoga.
The source, quoted by Interfax news agency, said one would anchor off Tartus and the other two would use a floating dock, because the port facilities were limited.
There is speculation that Russia may begin evacuating its nationals from Syria and deploy marines to protect personnel and equipment, as the violence intensifies.
Some 30,000 Russian citizens live in Syria, according to reports in the New York Times and Financial Times.