Russia has exported sophisticated Yakhont cruise missiles to the Bashar Assad regime that might be used against any foreign ships sent to intervene in the Syrian civil war, the New York Times reported on Thursday.
Damascus in early 2011 took receipt of its first shipment of mobile Yakhont batteries, according to IHS Jane's International Defense Review. However, the latest batch of missiles have been equipped with radar that makes them more capable, said anonymous U.S. officials with access to classified intelligence assessments.
"It enables the regime to deter foreign forces looking to supply the opposition from the sea, or from undertaking a more active role if a no-fly zone or shipping embargo were to be declared at some point," according to Jane's Editor-in-Chief Nick Brown. "It's a real ship killer."
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has acknowledged that Moscow is also shipping air-defense weapons to Syria under an existing contract. He has not confirmed reports that the shipment involves advanced S-300 batteries.
Russia also dispatched a minimum of 12 warships to guard the seas close to it naval installation in Syria, a development that European and U.S. officials assess as aimed at deterring Israel and other countries from entering the military conflict, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.