MOSCOW. March 19 (Interfax-AVN) - The Russian Black Sea Fleet's Iman tanker with an anti-terrorist squad aboard is on a mission off Syria, and the Russian Equator reconnaissance ship is operating in the Mediterranean Sea, the Black Sea Fleet Staff told Interfax-AVN more.
"The Iman medium seagoing tanker has successfully sailed from Sevastopol to the Syrian cost. It is staying at the Tartous port to perform its mission. Marines make up the anti-terrorist squad based on the tanker," the Staff said.
Russian Chariot had 4 armed guards on board, Russian Spetsnaz vets
“Like any other civilian support vessel taking part in the counter-piracy operation, this tanker [Iman]is carrying security units that will not allow pirates to seize this tanker or any other civilian vessel in the Gulf of Aden in the event of an attack,”. It is unclear why the ship is docked 8,000 kilometers from the piracy area, off the coast of Somalia.
As violence has increased in Syria, Russia has rotated its Navy ships through Tartous, reportedly in case they are needed for emergency evacuation of Russian citizens from Syria.
"The Equator special-purpose ship is also performing a Mediterranean mission. Over the past 45 days, the Black Sea Fleet Equator reconnaissance ship has covered the distance of several thousands miles in the rough seas while accomplishing its tasks," the Staff said. [below]
The Iman "replaced the Ivan Bubnov large seagoing tanker, which had been sent to Syria for demonstrating the Russian presence in the turbulent region and possible evaluation of Russian citizens," the Staff said. The Ivan Bubnov was also anchored in the Tartous port. Later, a Defense Ministry spokesman said the mission of the ship, the Iman, is to fuel Russian ships patrolling the Gulf of Aden. Russia, Mr. Assad's principal international backer, also reiterated its call for Damascus to agree to a two-hour-a-day humanitarian truce.