Syria conflict: Russia’s build-up looks long-term

Source: BBC

It is now four months since Russia launched its military intervention in Syria, with air strikes and a build-up of troops on the ground. The BBC’s Steve Rosenberg has been embedded with Russian troops and has sent this diary of his four-day visit.

Crowded skies

We last visited Russia’s Hmeimim air base in Syria in November 2015.

A lot has happened since.

Ten days after our visit, Turkey shot down a Russian bomber near the Turkish-Syrian border, resulting in Russia’s first combat deaths of this operation.

The skies over Syria are even more crowded now: Britain began conducting its own airstrikes in Syria in December, though their frequency is far lower than Russia’s air force.

Now, the Russian defence ministry has agreed to take another group of journalists back to Syria. I’m on this four-day trip and I’m intrigued to see what has changed.

A fighter jet flies overhead
Image captionRussia’s airstrikes in Syria outnumber Britain’s, which began in December
Military personnel load up a jet
Image captionPresident Vladimir Putin promised the Russian operation in Syria would be ‘limited in time’
A map of Syria shows UK, Russian, and US-led air strikes
Image captionForeign-led air strikes on Syria first began in 2014

Back on base

In an Ilyushin Il-62 jet, we fly from a military airfield on the edge of Moscow to Hmeimim airbase near Latakia.

When Moscow launched its air campaign in Syria, it made it clear this would be a temporary operation. But nearly four months on, there is no sign of Russia winding down offensive operations.

During our day at Hmeimim, we see a steady stream of Russian bombers taking off and landing. Since our last trip here, the Russians now have use of an additional runway.

Behind the runway I spot the S-400 surface to air missile complex. This was installed after Turkey shot down a Russian jet last November on the Turkish-Syrian border. We are shown ammunition being loaded onto bombers.

Western governments have accused Russia of causing hundreds of civilian deaths with unguided munitions. I ask defence ministry spokesman Maj Gen Igor Konashenkov to respond to the criticism.

“There are no facts and no proof,” he tells me. Igor Konashenkov is the only military man authorised to give interviews here on the base. We are told it’s not possible to interview Russian soldiers who are serving here.

In another part of the base, the Russian military shows us humanitarian aid being loaded onto a transport plane. This will be dropped by parachute to communities around Deir al-Zour in eastern Syria, a town besieged by the so-called Islamic State group.

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1 reply

  1. If we are really a good Muslim, follow Allah’s laws, we have to support Rusia who help Syria to fight against the armed rebels. Allah condemn armed rebels, because will cause suffering to innocent people. as Allah has warned in Bible and Al Quran;

    Those who plot evils ( to topple the authority), theirs will be severe torment. And the plotting of such will perish. QS 35;10.

    All citizen have to obey the existence authority, even you do not like or against your faith you have the right to protest peacefully.

    Everyone must obey the existing authorities, because no authority exists without God’s permission, and the existing authorities have been put there by God.Whoever opposes the existing authority opposes what God has ordered .Roman 13:1-2).
    O you who believe, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you.QS 4;59
    HADITS.Listen and obey your authority, though he struck your back and take your wealth force ( Muslim ).

    (The Existing State authority can be Sunni,Shia,Christian, Jews, Hindu,Atheist etc has to be obeyed. no matter what)

    We, as educated Muslim the world have to obey Allah’s laws as above, we have to support the existing Authority, if we claim that we are good Muslim.

    Hopefully Muslim Ahmadiyah with me in this case.
    Was Salam-With love

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