Russia is sending a missile cruiser to the east Mediterranean to take over the navy's operations in the region, a military source told state news agency Interfax Wednesday.
The ship, Moskva, will take over operations from a naval unit in the region. Moscow said that it is needed "in order to protect national interests." It will be joined by a destroyer from Russia's Baltic Fleet and a frigate from the Black Sea Fleet.
"The Cruiser Moskva is heading to the Gibraltar Straits. In approximately 10 days it will enter the east Mediterranean, where it will take over as the flagship of the naval task force," the source said.
Although Moscow has been Assad's most powerful ally, President Vladimir Putin, in an interview released on Wednesday, did not rule out approving a military operation against the Syrian regime, if clear evidence showed Damascus had carried out the attacks. Any attack would be illegal without UN support, he added.
Last week, the Russian Defense Ministry said new warships, including the Moskva, were being sent to the Mediterranean, describing the move as a routine deployment. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said Russia has no intention of getting dragged into any military conflict over Syria.
The arrival of the Moskva comes against a backdrop of mounting tension between the powers over events in Syria, which is an ally of Russia. US President Barack Obama said he supports bombing Syria in punishment over the use of chemical weapons by its regime against civilians.