Russia sends missile cruiser to Eastern Mediterranean
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Russian military officials say Moscow is sending three more naval ships, including a missile cruiser, to the Eastern Mediterranean, as the United States is preparing for a possible strike on Syria. The missile cruiser, Moskva, will take over the navy's operations in the region, a move which Russia says is needed to protect its national interests, state agency Interfax quoted a military source as saying on Wednesday. "The Cruiser Moskva is heading to the Strait of Gibraltar. In approximately 10 days it will enter the East Mediterranean, where it will take over as the flagship of the naval task force," said the unnamed military source. The missile cruiser is to be joined by two other vessels, a destroyer from Russia's Baltic Fleet and a frigate from the Black Sea Fleet, which are to arrive in the region until Friday. Russia has recently deployed other warships to the Eastern Mediterranean. On September 1, Moscow sent its Priazovye reconnaissance ship to the region tasked with collecting information in the tense region, which will be operating separately from the naval unit. Last week, Russian Defense Ministry reported that additional warships, including the Moskva, were being sent to the Mediterranean on routine mission. Russia Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has already made it clear that Russia has no intention of getting dragged into any military action against Syria. Moscow insists that the Syrian crisis must be solved through political dialogue. The war rhetoric against Syria gained momentum after the militants operating inside the country and the foreign-backed Syrian opposition claimed on August 21 that hundreds had been killed in a government chemical attack on militant strongholds in the Damascus suburbs of Ain Tarma, Zamalka and Jobar. The Syrian government categorically rejects the claim, saying the attack was carried out by the militants to draw in military intervention. According to reports, the militants in Syria are backed by the Western powers and their regional allies -- especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. Syria has been gripped by deadly unrest since 2011. The United Nations has reported that more than 100,000 people have been killed and millions displaced due to the violence.