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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Russian Ship to Hold Drills Off Syria

RIA Novosti

12:33 05/04/2012 MOSCOW, April 5 (RIA Novosti) - A Russian warship will dock at the Syrian port of Tartus before planned exercises off the country's Mediterranean coast, a source said on Thursday.

The Smetlivy guided-missile destroyer will remain in the western Mediterranean through May, the source told RIA Novosti.

The vessel left its home base at Sevastopol on April 1 and will call at the Russian-leased port, where it will take on supplies before staging the drills.

The Smetlivy is the last Kashin-class destroyer in the Russian Navy. The ship returned to service after repairs in 2011. Its armament includes two 76-mm AK-726 guns and a SS-N-25 Switchblade anti-ship missile system.

The source said there has been an increased presence of NATO warships in the region since the uprising against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad began in March last year.

The UN says more than 9,000 people have been killed in Syria's crackdown on the protests. The Damascus government insists it is combating "armed terrorist gangs" who are seeking to destabilize Syria.

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