June 20, 2013
Just one day after the G8 Summit ended in the failure of Western leaders to overcome Russian resistance to a resolution mandating President Bashar Assad’s ouster, Moscow announced Wednesday June 19, the dispatch to Syria of two warships carrying 600 Russian marines. They were coming, said the official statement, “to protect the Russian citizens there.” Russian Deputy Air Force Commander Maj.-Gen. Gradusov added that an air force umbrella would be provided the Russian expeditionary force if needed.
DEBKAfile’s military sources report that the pretext offered by Moscow for sending the force thinly disguised Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intent to flex Russian military muscle in response to the delivery of Western heavy arms to Syrian rebels – which DEBKAfile first revealed Tuesday, June 18.
Putin was giving the West due warning that if they persisted in arming the rebels any further, a Russian troop landing in Syria would take place in the guise of an operation to evacuate endangered Russian nationals.
Some 20,000 Russians live in Syria. In former stages of the conflict, they were given the locations of assembly points should Moscow decide to lift them out of the war-torn country. The evacuation of Russian citizens would in itself dramatically denote the expansion of the Syrian conflict.