MOSCOW Russia is sending the naval landing ship Nikolai Filchenkov to the eastern Mediterranean, state news agency Interfax said on Friday, reinforcing its presence near Syria.
Russia, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, says its vessels in the eastern Mediterranean guarantee security as the United States considers launching military strikes to punish Damascus for its alleged use of chemical weapons.
"The vessel will dock in Novorossiysk where it will take special cargo on board and head to the designated area of military service in the eastern Mediterranean," Interfax quoted an unnamed navy source as saying.
It gave no more details and Russia's Defense Ministry declined immediate comment.
Nikolai Filchenkov was not among vessels that the ministry said last month would enter the Mediterranean as part of a planned rotation.
Russia says it will not get involved militarily in Syria and opposes a possible U.S. intervention, saying it would lack a mandate from the U.N. Security Council, where Moscow has blocked Western-led attempts to mount pressure on Assad.
The dispute over Syria has overshadowed a G20 summit in St Petersburg this week and there is little expectation that world powers will be able to overcome differences on the matter.
(Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Angus MacSwan)