Russia is extending its military presence in Syria by upgrading the bases in Tartus and Khmeimim into permanent military centers, Moscow’s defense ministry said Tuesday.
Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu was quoted as saying by local media on Tuesday that the ministry has started forming a permanent grouping of forces at the Tartus naval facility and the Hmeymim airbase in Syria. After the Russian-Syrian agreement signed early this year on Tartus is ratified, the naval facility will become a full-fledged naval base.
Khmeimim Airbase, located near Latakia, and the naval site in the port city of Tartus have both been handed over to Russia for 49 years lease-free and with a condition of automatic extension unless either country chooses to terminate the deal.
Following the vote by Russia's upper house of parliament to extend the military's lease Shoigu announced plans to drastically expand the Mediterranean naval facility, creating space to keep 11 warships, including nuclear vessels.
The Hmeimim base has served as the main foothold for the Russian military campaign in Syria. Tartus naval facility has been in use since the days of the Soviet Union and is Russia's only naval foothold in the Mediterranean.