Russian troops in Syria

It has not been a secret since long. Now a video spread by a Syrian TV seems to definitely prove that Russia has sent a contingent in support of Assad. Soon, however, Moscow could make things bigger and in full light of the day.

Photo: Lovai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images
Photo: Lovai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images

The video aired by the Syrian National Defense Force official broadcastercould be an involuntary proof of the presence of Russian soldiers fighting alongside the government forces of Damascus. During a sequence of fighting, it shows an armored vehicle firing from a hill near Latakia. The vehicle isa BTR-82A, in force to the Russian army. In addition, Russian voices are heardin the videogiving instructionsto the BTR crew.

It is not the first information about the presence of Russian military personnel, nor a secret that there is military equipment - indeed, just the BTR-80, a similar pattern - located in Syria. However, it is the first time that something is seenin a video. The BTR-82A appears painted with camouflage colors, unlike those officially shipped for the dismantling operation of Assad’schemicalarsenal, that are painted in olive green.

The use of such a new and advanced vehicle suggests the voices in the video belong to personnel enlisted in the Russian army, instead of contractors.

Another recent cluematches this hypothesis. Just a few days before, the Turkish websiteBosphorusNaval News published thephotos of the Russian warship Nikolai Filchenkov, of the Black Sea Fleet, while crossing the strait heading a secret destination in the Mediterranean. On the deck, are clearly seenKamazmilitary trucks and some BTR hidden with camouflage.

A quantum leap

If the direct use of armed forces in the war in Syria represents a quantum leap in the Russian role on the Middle East scenario, the news itself should not surprise. It may, indeed, be only the first taste of a military intervention on a large scale.

Russia does not deny the presence of trainers and military advisers to the side of Assadforces. But no one says where exactly the dividing line between training and active participation in hostilities is.

Moscow has certainly also sent intelligence in support of the allied regime. Already on October 2014, the Free Syrian Army had seized a government army base where it found evidence of the presence of forces of the Russian military intelligence, GRU, anduploaded the video on Youtube.

News reports, which include information of the Pentagon, say that the Americans - that are supposed to know something more than journalists - do not deny nor admit they have evidence. That is to say that they have evidence.

However, the Syrian daily Al-Watan, close to the Syrian regime, sow more doubts in mind.  A few days ago - just when the video with BTR82A appeared –it published an article revealing that Russia “is considering a separate Russian operation as well as another joint operation with the Collective Security Treaty Organization [the CSTO, successor of the Warsaw Pact and Russian response to NATO], which will convene in Tajikistan’s Dushanbe on September 15”.

We have to wait just for a few days.


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