Russian commander confirms active ground troops in Syria
Iran Press TV
Wed Mar 23, 2016 11:46PM
Russia has deployed a group of special forces in Syria to conduct "reconnaissance and other special tasks" in the war-torn country, a senior Russian military commander says.
The announcement by Colonel General Alexander Dvornikov, a commander of the Russian contingent in Syria, is the first time Russia confirms assigning combat roles to its ground forces in Syria.
"I am not going to conceal the fact that our special operations forces are working in the territory of Syria. They are doing reconnaissance checks prior to the Russian air strikes; heading the planes to targets in remote regions as well as fulfilling other special tasks," the Tass news agency quoted Dvornikov as saying in an interview with Russia's Rossiyskaya Gazeta daily.
The Russian commander (seen below) added that his country's military advisers are also "helping their Syrian colleagues to plan and conduct the warfare against terrorists and learn to handle the Russian military hardware."
Target reconnaissance missions often require deploying highly-skilled forces behind enemy lines so they can collect information on targets hidden from aerial or satellite surveillance.
Up to six of the Russian personnel deployed to Syria have so far been reportedly killed, with the latest being a major in the interior ministry troops whose death emerged on Wednesday.
The news comes only days after Russian forces in Syria were ordered by President Vladimir Putin to partially withdraw from the country in the wake of a Russia-US brokered cessation of hostilities that has been in place since February 27 and a new round of UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva between the Syrian government and the opposition.
'Breaking the impasse'
Also on Wednesday, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who is currently in Geneva in a surprise visit to the venue of the peace talks, said the March 22 terrorist attacks in the Belgian capital Brussels highlighted Europe's responsibility to end the fiver-year-long Syrian conflict that has killed over 470,000 people according to the Syrian Center for Policy Research.
The twin blasts at Brussels Airport and another at a metro station close to the European Union headquarters left at least 34 people dead and 300 others wounded, marking the deadliest attacks in the country's history.
Mogherini met with the head of the Syrian delegation, Bashar al-Jaafari, UN Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura, and Riyadh Hijab, the head of the Saudi-backed High Negotiations Committee.
"She came to support us to engage positively in the talks that would lead to an end to the Syrian crisis," Jaafari said after his meeting with the EU official, adding, "For the first time, I can tell you that we were able to break the impasse, maybe in the form and a little bit in substance."
The EU foreign policy chief said that her "main message" was the "need to start a political transition in Damascus," adding that Syria first needs to "find peace and security and secondly defeat Daesh."
The latest round of the Syria peace talks began on March 14 in Geneva and is due to recess on March 24.
Meanwhile, in a Wednesday meeting in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier hailed progress in the settlement of the Arab country's crisis.
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