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Putin: Russian Ground Operation In Syria 'Ruled Out'

October 11, 2015
by RFE/RL

Russian President Vladimir Putin says Moscow will not deploy ground troops to Syria, where it has conducted air strikes against what it claims are Islamic State (IS) targets.

'This is ruled out,' Putin said in an interview broadcast October 11 on Russia's state-owned Rossia-1 television.

Russian lawmakers last month granted Putin approval to launch an air campaign in Syria in Moscow's bid to bolster embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his four-year-long war against an array of rebel factions, including IS militants.

Officials in Moscow have repeatedly denied that Russian troops would conduct ground operations in the war-torn country.

Moscow says its air strikes are targeting assets of the extremist IS organization in Syria.

Syrian opposition figures and Western governments say Russia has targeted rebel groups -- including some trained and equipped by the United States -- that are not linked to IS militants.

Putin's interview was broadcast a day after the Pentagon said Washington and Moscow had made 'progress' during talks designed to avoid accidents in Syrian airspace as the two countries conduct separate bombing campaigns.

'The discussions were professional and focused narrowly on the implementation of specific safety procedures,' Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said in an October 10 statement.

Russian planes recently flew near a U.S. drone, officials say, and the U.S. military, which has been bombarding IS sites in Syria since last year, has had to reroute some flights to avoid any close calls.

Moscow and Assad characterize all armed groups in Syria as terrorists, while the United States and its allies have focused their air war on IS militants.

Putin said in the interview broadcast October 11 that Russia "warned our partners beforehand, both the American partners and many other partners, especially countries of the region, about our intentions and our plans.'

The Russian president said 'no one had ever warned [Russia] about the planning and launch of such operations," adding that Moscow is "working in strict compliance with international law, at the request of the Syrian authorities.'

Assad's forces have reportedly made gains against insurgent forces with the backing of Russian air raids that continued on October 11.

Russia's Defense Ministry said on October 11 that over the past 24 hours, its war planes had flown 64 sorties, hitting 63 targets and destroying 53 fortified positions. It described all of these targets as controlled by IS militants, though most of the areas it claimed to have struck are not held by the group.

AP cited an unidentified Syrian military official as saying on October 11 that government forces seized the village of Tak Sukayk in the central Hama Province, the second village captured by Assad's forces since launching a ground offensive under the cover of the Russian air campaign that began on September 30.

The fighting in Syria continued on several fronts in the north of the Hama Province and the nearby rebel-controlled Idlib Province, AP reported.

Putin said in the interview broadcast October 11 that Russia's objective is to stabilize the Syrian government and create conditions for a political compromise.

'When a division of international terrorists stands near the capital, then there is probably little desire for the Syrian government to negotiate, most likely feeling itself under siege in its own capital,' he said.

Washington accuses Assad of terrorizing his own population in his bid to remain in power and insists that he cannot be part of a postwar government in Syria.

Russia rejects the U.S. position, saying Assad and his military represent the best chance to defeat IS militants.

With reporting by AFP, vesti.ru, Interfax, Reuters, AP, and dpa

Source: http://www.rferl.org/content/putin-rules-out-ground-troops-syria/27300342.html

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.



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