Russian Warships Head to Syria Sent to protect local Russian nationals: insider By Matt Cantor, Newser User Posted Jun 18, 2012 11:56 AM CDT 9 comments Comments This image made from amateur video accessed Monday, June 18, 2012 purports to show black smoke rising from buildings in Homs, Syria. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network via AP video) (Newser) – Russia is planning to send a pair of warships to Syria "outside of their schedule," according to Russian news; their reported aim is to protect Russian nationals. The ships will journey to the port city of Tartus, home to a Russian naval base, the AFP reports. On board will be a "large" group of marines. One ship is capable of hauling 150 troops as well as tanks; the other can carry more than 1600 tons of supplies. The ships will "ensure security of Russian nationals" and perhaps "evacuate part of the property" of the base, a source told Russia's Interfax. Hillary Clinton earlier warned that Russian helicopters in Syria could "escalate the conflict quite dramatically."