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Russia Boosts Assad Forces, Sends Missile System To Syria Port

Russia runs an air base outside the Syrian coastal city of Latakia, which currently houses warplanes used in its bombing campaign in support of ally Assad

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Russia has sent an advanced missile system to the Syrian port of Tartus amid tensions between it and the United States over the five-year conflict that has created millions of refugees and caused hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths.

The announcement came after Washington said it was suspending talks with Moscow aimed at reviving a ceasefire deal over Russia's support for the regime of Syrian leader Bashar Al Assad.

On the ground, Assad's forces backed by Russians, Iranians and Shiite militias advanced on rebels during intense street fighting in the opposition-held east of Aleppo city, which Russia has been accused of bombing indiscriminately including deliberately targeting its hospitals using bunker-busting bombs.

The UN rights chief called for action to halt the "ghastly avalanche of violence" unfolding in Syria's second city, which is reeling from some of the most brutal fighting in the conflict.

Russia said it was deploying an S-300 missile system to Tartus on the Mediterranean coast. Without Russian air power, the Assad regime would find it difficult to challenge Syria's opposition forces.

"The S-300 is a purely defensive system and poses no threat to anyone," said Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov.

"It's not clear why the placement of S-300 in Syria has caused such a stir among our western colleagues," he said in a statement.

As well as operating a naval facility in Tartus, Russia runs an air base outside the Syrian coastal city of Latakia, which currently houses warplanes used in its bombing campaign in support of ally Assad.

In August, a Russian official said Moscow was planning to expand into a permanent military facility its Hmeimim air base, which already has an S-400 air defence system, its most modern arsenal.

'Patience With Russia Has Run Out'

Washington announced late on Monday that it would suspend joint efforts to reinstate a nationwide truce, accusing Moscow of abetting Assad's assault on Aleppo.

"Everybody's patience with Russia has run out," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has also suspended a deal with the United States on the disposal of weapons-grade plutonium, once a symbol of US-Russian rapprochement.

A US official said Secretary of State John Kerry was focused on finding a diplomatic solution, but his talks with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on the crisis were over.

Kerry today the decision was one "we did not come to lightly".

"We are not abandoning the pursuit of peace, we are not going to leave the multilateral field, we are going to continue to try to find a way forward in order to end this war," he said.

"People who are serious about making peace behave differently from the way Russia has chosen to behave," he added.

With strong Russian and Iranian backing, the Assad regime looks set to continue with its military campaign against Syrian opposition. The diplomatic efforts launched with much fanfare in the past have done little to bring relief to Syrians facing one of the world's biggest human catastrophes.

The big power tussle over Syria has rendered the UN helpless in even trying to secure a viable ceasefire.


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russia syria defence john kerry