Russia will send a flotilla of warships led by its only aircraft carrier to its naval base in Syria for a port call next year amid tensions with the West over the Syrian crisis, a report said yesterday. The ships, headed by the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier, will dock at the little-utilised Russian base in the Syrian port of Tartus in spring 2012, the Izvestia daily said, quoting the Russian navy. The Tartus base, a strategic asset for Moscow dating back to Soviet times, is rarely used by Russian vessels and currently no Russian ship is based there although civilian and military personnel are present. A naval spokesman confirmed the plan to send the ships but insisted it had nothing to do with the deadly violence in Syria. “The call of the Russian ships in Tartus should not be seen as a gesture towards what is going on in Syria,” the spokesman said.