Russian and Syrian servicemen line up near military jets during a ceremony dedicated to the withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria at Hmeimim airbase, Syria, in this March 15, 2016. REUTERS/Russian Ministry of Defence/Vadim Grishankin/Handout
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When President Vladimir Putin announced the withdrawal of most of Russia's military contingent from Syria, there was an expectation that the Yauza, a Russian naval icebreaker and one of the mission's main supply vessels, would return home to its Arctic Ocean port. Instead, three days after Putin's March 14 declaration, the Yauza, part of the "Syrian Express," the nickname given to the ships that have kept Russian forces supplied, left the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiysk for Tartous, Russia's naval facility in Syria.Putin has said Russia will keep both and that they will need to be well protected.A Reuters analysis of the same data shows Russia is also likely to have reinforced its naval force in the Mediterranean and now appears to have more war ships near the Syrian coast than at the time of Putin's declaration.Since Moscow began to scale back in Syria, Russia has sent two landing ships, which are typically used to transport troops and armor – the Caesar Kunikov and the Saratov – to the Mediterranean along with the Yauza, an auxiliary cargo vessel.Non-military cargo traffic between Russia and Syria also shows no signs of flagging.
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