A Syrian official confirmed the Russian government provided the country with more military experts in the past 12 months. However, Russian officials claim they sent those men to advise and instruct the Syrians on how to use Russian equipment, even though U.S. officials discovered new military gear arriving as well.
Syria has been in a civil war for four years, which has allowed radical Islamic groups like the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) to expand and capture the majority of northern Syria for their caliphate.
“Russian experts are always present but in the last year they have been present to a greater degree,” insisted the Syrian official. “All aspects of the relationship are currently being developed, including the military one.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry downplayed the Syrian’s claims, though.
“Russian military specialists help Syrians master Russian hardware, and we can’t understand the anti-Russian hysteria about this,” said spokeswoman Maria V. Zakharova. “We have been supplying Syria with arms and military equipment for a long time. We are doing this in accordance with existing contracts and in full accordance with international law.”
The presence is exacerbating tensions between Russia and America, which are already at Cold War levels due to the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea. But the buildup could be because President Bashar al-Assad’s control continues on a downward spiral. State television reported his troops lost “an air base in northwestern Syria to an alliance of rebels after nearly two years under siege.” Radical Islamic group Jabhat al-Nusra, which is linked to al-Qaeda, led the fight for the airport.
This means Syrian national troops completely left central Idlib province.
“If we need to take further measures to intensify counterterrorism efforts, these issues will no doubt be examined further, but solely on the basis of international law and the Russian legislation,” continued Zakharova.
Two officials told Reuters that Russia sent “two tank landing ships and additional aircraft to Syria in the past day or so and has deployed a small number of forces.” One proposed the moves show that Assad is focusing “on preparing an airfield” near Latakia “to provide security.” Lebanese sources witnessed Russian forces “participating in military operations in Syria.”
The past two weeks have been nothing but a complete mess with this situation due to the Russian government’s inability to keep its lies straight.
Last week, Syrian state television revealed pictures of Russian soldiers and vehicles with Syrian army troops. A Twitter account linked to al-Nusra also posted pictures of Russian jets in the sky. A Russian official told Russia Today the government did not redeploy “Russian combat aircraft.” But three days later, after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the same government claimed officials never denied or misled anyone about sending weapons and equipment to Syria.
“The Russian side has never concealed the fact that it is sending military equipment to the Syrian authorities to help them fight terrorism,” Zakharova explained to AFP. “Lavrov confirmed that such aid has always been provided and is being provided.”
In September 2014, Chechens in ISIS 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!”
ISIS 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!”