Russian warships sail into position as Aleppo blitzkrieg looms
A flotilla of Russian warships is now in position off the Syrian coast, as the people of Aleppo fear the city will be hammered by missiles and bombs in the coming days.
Sergei Artamonov, commander of Russia's flagship Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier, said the vessels were in the "designated zone... in the eastern Mediterranean" and "are now jointly carrying out tasks, manoeuvring to the west of the Syrian coast".
Migs and Sukhoi war planes are already flying reconnaissance missions over northern Syria picking out targets for an expected onslaught on rebel areas in Aleppo.
"Flights are being carried out from the deck... they are working on coordination with the shore port," he said.
"The flights have been going on practically every day for the last four days," he added.
Earlier, Russia's Interfax news agency said war planes from the aircraft carried has been flying over Syrian to "determine combat missions".
The Russian television channel also spoke to the commander of the Pyotr Veliky nuclear-powered battle cruiser, which is part of the same flotilla.
Asked whether foreign aircraft were flying over the ships, the commander, Vladislav Malakhovsky, said "they are afraid to come closer than 50 kilometres away, realising very well how powerful the nuclear cruiser is".
Syrians in Aleppo are fearing a "final assault" on rebel areas of the city as the Russian fleet sails into position with huge fire power, while regime positions are bolstered with reinforcements.
It follows the failure of a rebel offensive to capture the city last month, with gains undone on Saturday by regime fighters backed by Russian fire power.
Despite some brief respites from the bombing, Aleppo fears the largest bombardment yet of the war in coming.
The Pentagon sources told UA Wire that the Russian assault on Aleppo is imminent.
"There are signs that the deck-based Admiral Kuznetsov aviation is going to become a part of some greater combined forces that will be involved in an operation in the Syrian city of Aleppo the current week," it said.
Russia and the Syrian regime want fighters and civilians to flee besieged east Aleppo through "humanitarian corridors", but residents have been reluctant to accept the offer due to mistrust of Damascus.
Agencies contributed to this story.