Jim Miklaszewski and Courtney Kube
NBC News 
June 13, 2012
Russia is sending a new shipment of helicopter gunships to Syria, a move that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday could escalate the conflict “quite dramatically.”
Syria already has a fleet of the Russian gunships which are armed with rockets, cannons and heavy machine guns.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is one of Russia’s main weapons customers, according to Reuters , and Moscow sold a large shipment to the country as recently as mid-May.
Russia’s business relationship with Syria has presented a problem on the U.N. Security Council, which has been seeking a unified stance in confronting the Assad regime. Russia along with China — two of the council’s five permanent members — has been reluctant to admonish the Syrian leader, despite the growing bloody toll in a conflict that a U.N. official said Tuesday had all the characteristics of a civil war .