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Russia special forces aiding
Hezbollah in Latakia: report

Al-Rai said that Russian units armed with artillery were supporting the regime's blistering offensive in mountains northeast of Syria's coast.

Russian troops. (image via Addiyar.com)

BEIRUT – Russian special forces have backed Hezbollah and Syrian regime forces in their recent advances in the mountains north of Latakia, according to a Kuwaiti daily with close access to Moscow’s aerial campaign in the war-torn country.

 

“Special forces from the Russian army equipped with Howitzer artillery, supported by warplanes and backed by elite units from Lebanon’s Hezbollah… have been entering the fiercest of battles in the heights and towns of Latakia,” sources in the Damascus joint operations room of the “4+1” military coalition of Russia, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Hezbollah told Al-Rai newspaper’s chief international correspondent, Elijah J. Magnier.

 

The sources said it was likely that “through intensive use of howitzer batteries and artillery, the Russian formations are inflicting much greater losses to personnel and infantry than the losses the Russian Air Force is inflicting.”

 

“This is allowing the attacking forces from the Syrian army and Hezbollah to advance from town to town and village to village without any notable confrontation.”

 

Britain based monitoring NGO the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has also claimed that Russian ground troops participated in the offensive alongside Syrian army troops and allied militiamen.   

 

The Syrian army, Hezbollah and allied militias on January 12 swept into the rebel redoubt of Salma with little resistance after seizing a number of mountains overlooking the town, which had been held by insurgents since 2012.

 

Armed opposition groups attempted to stage a counterattack in the following weeks amid harsh weather conditions in northwest Syria, however pro-regime forces managed to push them back and seize the other major rebel center in the region, Rabia, on January 24.

 

Although there have been many reports to the contrary, Russia denies having a ground presence beyond the troops necessary to protect its airbase in Latakia. Over the weekend, Moscow organized a tour of Salma for journalists, with Russia Today saying special forces units from the Hmeimim Airbase had deployed in the town to ensure security.

 

Russian officers overseeing Latakia front

 

Russian army officers have been overseeing the Syrian regime’s offensive in the mountains northeast of Latakia, where pro-Assad forces have been advancing against beleaguered rebels.

 

On January 13, one day after Syrian army troops backed by Hezbollah and National Defense Force (NDF) militiamen routed rebels from Salma, the SOHR said that Russian officers were supervising the regime’s military operations center for the Jabal al-Akrad front.

 

In turn, Lebanon’s Al-Akhbar newspaper—which supports the Syrian regime—reported that Russian officers were present near the front-lines in the northwest of the country.

 

“Russian officers visited the Salma front accompanied by a number of Syrian army officers and toured a number of sectors on the way to Salma,” a field source told the daily on January 27.

 

The Qatari-owned Al-Jazeera, in another report on developments in the area, cited opposition activists as saying that Russian officers in the field had “directed the... assault on Salma.”

 

An undated video also circulated social media showing a Russian officer allegedly observing the battles outside the mountain town alongside members of a local NDF militia.

 

In the video, the Russian general—speaking through an interpreter—praised the NDF, saying that “during the time he has been in Syria, the NDF hasn’t lost a single position.”

“They haven’t withdrawn from a single position,” the general’s interpreter said, adding that the Russian officer rated the NDF’s work as “distinguished.”

 

When an off-camera NDF member voiced his thanks to Vladimir Putin, the Russian officer responded: “This is our obligation toward the Syrian people.”

 

Moscow’s military intervention in Syria has steadily expanded in scope since it began airstrikes on behalf of the Syrian regime in late September, with reports indicating Russian military advisors, special forces and technicians have deployed outside Homs and in the south of the country.

 

NOW’s English news desk editor Albin Szakola (@AlbinSzakola) compiled this report. Ullin Hope translated the Arabic-language source material.

Russian forces deployed in Salma over the weekend during a press junket. (image via Addiyar.com)

This is allowing the attacking forces from the Syrian army and Hezbollah to advance from town to town and village to village without any notable confrontation.

  • juango

    I don't care who is destroying ISIS as long as they are destroyed. Libya and Afganistan need some attention too as ISIS is leaving where it cannot win. Islam is a cancer.

    January 28, 2016