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Iran Press TV

Russia says no ground troops involved in operation for Palmyra

Iran Press TV

Fri Mar 18, 2016 3:36PM

Russia says it has no ground troops involved in the operation to liberate Syria's Palmyra and the 'advance' to retake the historic city is carried out by the Syrian army.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday that the advance on Palmyra 'is carried out by contingents of the Syrian army.'

The Russian official also clarified remarks by Russian President Vladimir Putin about Palmyra, which is also known as Tadmur in Arabic.

"The offensive is conducted by Syrian armed forces. What the president said was that the campaign has significantly strengthened the Syrian armed forces, which are now able to independently continue the offensive," Peskov told reporters.

President Putin on Thursday expressed hope that Palmyra, known as the 'Pearl of the Desert' for its historic and archeological value, would be returned to the Syrian people soon.

Social media pages affiliated to the Takfiri terrorist group Daesh, which took control of Palmyra in May 2015, claimed on Friday that the militants had managed to kill five Russian troops near Palmyra.

'Four of the Russian soldiers were killed in Qasr al-Halabat west of Palmyra,' said Aamaq, a website linked to Daesh, adding that a Russian adviser had died Thursday in the Dawa area.

'Ground paved for Daesh defeat in Palmyra'

The Russian armed forces said Friday that the country's jets are flying some 25 bombing raids daily to back up a Syrian government offensive to recapture the ancient city of Palmyra from Daesh militants.

Senior commander Sergei Rudskoi said the 'conditions have been created for the encirclement and definitive defeat of IS (Daesh) armed formations in Palmyra.'

'Government troops and patriotic forces with the support of the Russian air force are carrying out a large-scale operation to liberate Palmyra,' he told journalists.

'On average Russian planes are flying 20 to 25 combat sorties each day,' Rudskoi said.

Palmyra has seen over the past months shocking scenes of pillage and looting by Daesh of some of its valuable archaeological sites, including the ancient Palmyra, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Russian Defense Ministry has yet to confirm the alleged death of Russian soldiers. Russia has reportedly lost a total of five servicemen since its aerial campaign against terrorist positions began in Syria on September 30, 2015. The combat sorties began upon a request by the Syrian government.

Officials in the ministry said on Friday that conditions were created for the complete defeat of Daesh in Palmyra.

On the 'threshold of the city'

On Thursday, Syrian Ambassador to Russia Riyad Haddad thanked Moscow for its support for the Syrian army in its drive to retake Palmyra, saying Damascus is very close to liberating the city from the occupation of Daesh.

'Our army is on the threshold of the city. This, of course, [occurred] with the support of the Russian Aerospace Forces,' Haddad said.

On March 14, President Putin ordered the start of Russia's military pullout from Syria, expressing hope that the withdrawal could help peace negotiation on the fate of the Arab country advance.

However, the Russian president said Thursday that his country will remain engaged in the fight against terrorism in Syria, adding that Moscow will be ready to provide military and intelligence support to Damascus.

"If needed, Russia can boost its air group in the region in literally a few hours to a size corresponding with the situation and use the whole arsenal of our opportunities," Putin said in a ceremony held in Moscow to award Russian servicemen for their role in the Syria campaign.

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