A Russian navy missile cruiser is on duty off Syria's coast to help protect a Russian air base with an array of long-range missile systems.

On Thursday, the Russian military put its naval might in the eastern Mediterranean on display, taking a group of Moscow-based journalists on a rare visit to the Varyag cruiser.

The display of Russia's military operations in support of Syrian President Bashar Assad comes ahead of planned peace talks Monday in Geneva, which are meant to pave the way for a political settlement for Syria.

To reach the cruiser, journalists boarded a Russian destroyer in Tartus, where Russia has had a supply and repair facility for its ships in the Mediterranean since Soviet times. It's now the only such support facility outside the former Soviet Union.