Russia has confirmed it has sent personnel to Syria to oversee arms deliveries, this is believed to be the first official confirmation of an expanded Russian presence in the country.
This comes after the United States attempts to halt a suspected Russian military buildup in Syria by asking various countries to close their airspace to Russian transport aircraft bound for Syria. Bulgaria publicly sided with the US and denied access to the transport aircraft. Despite attempts to hinder the Russian deployment, Antonov An-124 transport aircraft have now landed in Latakia, Syria.
They have reportedly unloaded large containers containing modular housing units as well as portable air traffic control equipment.
Vladimir Djabarov, vice-president of Russia’s foreign affairs council, told state press agency Tass that the aircraft contained only “humanitarian cargo”.
Russia has had a military presence in Syria for quite some time, speculation is now building however that the latest deployments are part of an effort to step up support for the Syrian government. Given that Syria’s air force is largely composed of Soviet era aircraft, it wouldn’t be difficult for Russia to use its own forces to expand their combat capabilities.
Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said:
“Our concern would be that any effort to bolster the Assad regime right now would potentially be destabilising.”
Russia has so far rejected claims it’s building up its forces in the country and insisting it has only deployed personnel in line with its contracts and agreements to long-time ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.