Russia has shipped a battery of S-300 anti-aircraft missiles from Syria to a Russian port near Crimea, Israeli satellite imaging company ImageSat International (ISI) said, in what appears to be an attempt to bolster its air defenses in the war with Ukraine, Reuters reported.
The company captured pictures showing the presence of the S-300 anti-aircraft battery at Masyaf, Syria in April, and the empty site left behind on August 25 after the hardware was shipped to the port of Tartus.
Separate images showed the battery components on a dock at Tartus between August 12 and 17. By August 20 they had gone, and ISI concluded they had been transferred to a Russian vessel, the Sparta II, which left Tartus for the Russian port of Novorossiysk.
The S-300 missile system, originally developed by the Soviet military, but since modernized and available in several versions with significantly different capabilities, fires missiles from trucks and is designed to shoot down military aircraft and short and medium-range ballistic missiles.
Russia first delivered the S-300 systems to Syria in 2018. Israel had made repeated efforts to persuade Moscow not to sell the S-300s to Syria, as it fears this would hinder its aerial capabilities against arms shipments to the Hezbollah terrorist group.
Reports in Israel at the time said that Russia received $1 billion from Syria in payment for the S-300.
The Russian defense ministry declined to comment on the move of the S-300s.
If confirmed, the transfer would indicate a significant Russian move to bolster air defenses near Ukraine.