Russia's parliament yesterday ratified an agreement with Damascus to expand the Russian military's naval facility in the Syrian port of Tartous. The agreement was signed in Syria in January and was sent last week by Russian President Vladimir Putin for ratification by the parliament's lower house, the State Duma.
Valid for 49 years, it allows for the expansion and modernization of the facility used by the Russian navy. Under the deal, a maximum of 11 Russian warships including nuclear-powered vessels can be present at Tartous at any given time.
"The agreement allows the expansion of the naval facility to 24 hectares free of charge," said Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Pankov on presenting the deal to the State Duma, Russian media reported, according to AFP.
During a surprise visit to Syria last week, Putin ordered a partial withdrawal of Russian troops from the war-torn country, after which the military said it had begun scaling back its deployment. Russia intervened in the Syrian conflict on the side of the Damascus regime in September 2015. Since then, its warships have played a prominent role backing up an aerial bombing campaign in support of Bashar al-Assad.
Russia will keep a naval and an air base in Syria capable of carrying out strikes against insurgents if required after a partial military pull-out announced by President Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin said last Tuesday. "Thanks to the fact that the operation to save Syria and the liberation of Syrian land from terrorists have been completed, there is no longer a need for broad-scale combat strength," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, as reported by Reuters. But he added that Russia would keep the Hmeymim air base in Syria's Latakia Province and its naval facility in the port of Tartous.