The Russian government is claiming officials never denied or misled anyone about sending weapons and equipment to Syria. The report comes days after terrorist groups in Syria published photos of Russians in Syria, and the U.S. warning the Kremlin about military activity in the war-torn country.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke over the phone this weekend about the alleged Russian activity.
“The Russian side has never concealed the fact that it is sending military equipment to the Syrian authorities to help them fight terrorism,” explained Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova to AFP. “Lavrov confirmed that such aid has always been provided and is being provided.”
Kerry told Lavrov that American officials are “deeply concerned” by the growth of Russian support inside Syria.
“The secretary made clear that if such reports were accurate, these actions could further escalate the conflict, lead to greater loss of innocent life, increase refugee flows and risk confrontation with the anti-ISIL Coalition operating in Syria,” the State Department released in a statement.
On September 4, Russian officials denied reports that the government placed Russian soldiers in Syria and deployed fighter jets.
“There has been no redeployment of Russian combat aircraft to the Syrian Arab Republic,” a source told Russia Today. “The Russian Air Force is at its permanent bases and carrying out normal troop training and combat duty.”
The Telegraph reported that Syrian TV showed Russian troops next to President Bashar al-Assad’s troops. On social media, accounts associated with radical Islamic group Jabhat al-Nusra published pictures of alleged Russian jets in the Syrian sky.
“The Russians have been there a long time,” an anonymous source told The London Times. “There are more Russian officials who came to Slunfeh in recent weeks. We don’t know how many but I can assure you there has been Russian reinforcement.”
One Syrian official told Reuters that Russia is providing more support with “new weapons and training.”
“Our ties are always developing but in these days a qualitative shift has happened,” explained the source. “We call it a qualitative shift in Arabic, which means big.”
In September 2014, Chechens in the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) released a video, threatening Russian President Vladimir Putin. The terrorists promised to liberate Chechnya and the North Caucasus.
“We will, with the consent of Allah, free Chechnya and all of the Caucasus!” said the fighter. “The Islamic State is here and will stay here, and it will spread with the grace of Allah! Your throne has already been shaken. It is under threat and will fall with our arrival. We’re already on our way with the grace of Allah!”
The Islamic State allegedly shot the video at an airport in Raqqa after they seized control from the Syrian Army. A Russian speaker describes the jets and military equipment to the Islamic State fighters. He confirms it all came from Russia.
“This message is for you, Vladimir Putin!” said the fighter. “These are the aircraft you sent to Bashar [Assad], and we’re going to send them to you. Remember that!”