Reuters

A cargo ship operated by the Russian Navy transited Istanbul’s Bosphorus Strait en route to Syria on March 24 loaded with ambulances.

Syria reported its first case of coronavirus on March 22 after weeks of rejecting opposition allegations that the disease had already reached a country with a wrecked health system and thousands of Iranian-backed militias and Shi’ite pilgrims.

The Russian Dvinitsa-50 ship, part of Moscow’s auxiliary fleet, was carrying at least three military ambulances along with a shipping container on its deck.

Russia, which has provided military support for President Bashar al-Assad since 2015, operates a naval facility at Tartus in Syria and an airbase in Latakia.

The Russian military said on March 23 that none of its servicemen had contracted the coronavirus.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu was tested for the virus after returning from Syria this week, Russia’s TASS news agency reported on March 24. He tested negative.