Alexander Golts, a military analyst and deputy editor of the online newspaper Yezhednevny Zhurnal, said the Kremlin was promoting the idea of an global coalition against Islamic State as a way of trying to end Russia’s worldwide isolation. Russia’s only base on the Mediterranean dates from the Cold War – 1971, when Assad’s father held power.
The Pentagon said on Monday that Russian Federation may be setting up an air operations base in Syria near Latakia, where the Assad family has its ancestral home, amid a “continual, steady” flow of people and things. He repeatedly declined to get into the specifics of the buildup they were seeing, but said that there are no fighter jets on the ground.
Russian President Vladimir Putin Tuesday reiterated that cooperation with Syrian government is necessary to defeat the Islamic State (IS) group.
Russian Federation “has always been supplying arms and military equipment to Syria in accordance with bilateral contracts”, the ministry said.
The USA has also spotted half a dozen howitzers and a dozen BTR-80 armed personnel carriers at the base along with a company of 200 Naval Infantrymen.
Moscow supports the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, and argues that any political transition in the country must see him remain in power.
One of the US officials, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, said seven Russian T-90 tanks had been observed at the airfield near Latakia, an Assad stronghold.
It might also serve as a staging area for airstrikes in support of Syrian government forces. The Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov confirmed last Thursday that his country was sending military equipment to Syria.
The remarks came after Washington said Moscow was expanding its military presence in Syria and aimed to create a forward air operating base at an airfield south of Latakia Province.
Syria’s Ambassador to Russia Riad Haddad has dismissed as a “lie” accusations from Western countries that Russian soldiers are present in Syria.
“What we would prefer to see from the Russians is a more constructive engagement with the 60-member coalition that’s led by the United States that’s focused on degrading and ultimately destroying ISIL”, Earnest told a briefing, using an acronym for the Islamic State group.
Responding to the reports, State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters: “It certainly appears as though… they are continuing to support – and perhaps even with additional assets – the Assad regime”.
Syria’s civil war has killed more than 250,000 people since 2011 and prompted a refugee crisis that has spilled into neighboring countries and caused hundreds of thousands to seek shelter in the European Union.