Russian troops allegedly fighting alongside Assad's forces in Syria
Published 03/09/2015 | 14:30
Russian troops have been reported fighting alongside pro-Assad forces in Syria, state television in Damascus claims.
Video footage allegedly showing troops and a Russian armoured vehicle fighting Syrian rebels alongside President Bashar al-Assad's troops in Latakia has emerged.
It is reportedly possible to hear Russian being spoken by the troops in the footage.
On Monday, the Israeli news sites cited Western diplomats as saying that a Russian “expeditionary force” had arrived in Syria to set up camp at a government airbase near Damascus in order to lead an offensive against IS militants and rebel-aligned targets.
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The report added: “thousands of Russian military personnel are set to touch down in Syria, including advisers, instructors, logistics and technical personnel, members of the aerial protection division, and pilots who will operate the aircraft.”
Moscow has denied plans to station troops in Syria, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying Russian involvement in the Syrian conflict was “not on the agenda”.
However, a Twitter account linked to Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda's Syrian branch, yesterday published images of what appeared to be Russian planes and drones flying over Idlib.
An unnamed activist with the Syrian rebel group the Free Syrian Army told The UK Times: “The Russians have been there a long time.
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"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.”
If these claims were confirmed, it would mark the first evidence of western troops fighting on the front line against ISIS.
Russia has been accused of delaying the launch of an international investigation aimed at assigning blame for chemical weapon attacks in Syria though Moscow's UN envoy said the holdup was for technical reasons.