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.