The head of the Russian Navy has raised the prospect of the Black Sea Fleet relocating to a Syrian naval base. Chief Admiral Vladimir Masorin emphasised the strategic importance of the Mediterranean to Russia during a visit to sailors in the Ukrainian port of Sebastapol. The Soviet Union withdrew warships from the Syrian port of Tartus in the 1990s, at the end of the Cold War, but has kept a logistical supply point there. Russia is known to have started dredging works at Tartus to allow its biggest warships to dock. It is also participating in a modernisation project at another port further north. Moscow’s agreement with Kiev for the use of its Black Sea ports is due to expire in 2017. Ukraine has said Russia is not paying enough for the facilities and called for talks which have since stalled. Any redeployment of the fleet to a Syrian port would certainly worry the West, especially in the light of the escalation of military and technical cooperation between Russia and Syria.