MOSCOW, Dec. 27 (Xinhua) -- Russia will deploy a naval unit permanently in the eastern Mediterranean after the military operation in Syria ends, a top Russian military official said Wednesday.
"We will not withdraw... Our group of vessels is permanently operating in the Mediterranean now," Chief of General Staff of Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov told the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper.
Earlier, Russia had pulled out most of its troops from Syria, keeping only the Hmeymim airbase and the Tartus naval base there.
The Tartus naval base in northwestern Syria, established in 1977, is currently Russia's sole support facility in the Mediterranean.
In January, Syria agreed to let Russia keep its naval facility in Tartus for at least 49 years, and expand and overhaul the maintenance infrastructure there.
Russia is allowed to deploy up to 11 warships, including nuclear-powered combat vessels, in the Tartus base.