Putin confirms Russian military involvement in Syria’s civil war
Russia is providing “serious” training and logistical support to the Syrian army, Vladimir Putin has said, in the first public confirmation of the depth of Russia’s involvement in Syria’s civil war.
Commenting on reports that Russian combat troops have been deployed to Syria, the Russian president said discussion of direct military intervention is “so far premature,” but did not rule out that such a step could be taken in future.
“To say we’re ready to do this today — so far it’s premature to talk about this.
But we are already giving Syria quite serious help with equipment and training soldiers, with our weapons,” the state-owned RIA Novosti news agency quoted Mr Putin as saying when asked about Russian intervention in Syria during an economic forum in Vladivostok.
“We really want to create some kind of an international coalition to fight terrorism and extremism,” Mr Putin said.
“To this end, we hold consultations with our American partners — I have personally spoken on the issue with US President Obama.”
Russia has repeatedly used its UN Security Council veto to support Bashar Assad throughout the four-and-a-half-year-long war, which is believed to have claimed some 250,000 lives. Russia has also been a long-term supplier of arms to the Syrian government, something it now justifies by the need to fight Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil).
Speculation is growing that Russia has significantly expanded its involvement in recent months, including with deliveries of advanced weaponry, a raft of spare parts for existing machines, and the deployment of increasing numbers of military advisers and instructors.
@ValkryVRussian troops are said to be “fighting alongside Assad’s army against Syrian rebels.”
Last week Syrian state television released images showing an advanced Russian-built armoured personnel carrier, the BTR-82a, in combat. Videos have also appeared in which troops engaged in combat appear to shout instructions to one another in Russian.
Last week the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth cited western diplomatic sources saying that Russia was on the verge of deploying “thousands” of troops to Syria to establish an airbase from which the Russian air force would fly combat sorties against Isis.
Russian analysts called the Yedioth report far-fetched, pointing to Russian wariness of repeating the American experience in Iraq and the current strain on the Russian military from a covert war in Ukraine .
Most government-connected analysts have previously insisted that Russia’s support for Mr Assad is “strictly political” and have dismissed reports of military involvement as “madness.”
“It is a canard. A deployment of that size would require approval from the Federation Council [Russia’s upper house of parliament],” said Yevgenny Buzhinsky, a retired Russian general who now heads the PIR analytical centre in Moscow. “As far as I am aware any advisers there do not engage in combat.”
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