Russia doesn’t rule out airbase in Syria, but has no plans for construction
“For the moment, there [are] no such plans. However, everything could happen,” the First Deputy Chief of General Staff, Nikolay Bogdanovsky, told Russian media.
So far, Russia only has a logistical support base in the Syrian port of Tartous.
Earlier, a number of Western media outlets reported that Russia has been creating an air base in an airfield near the Syrian city of Latakia with the US officials expressing their “concern” over reports of Russia’s alleged military presence in Syria.
The Pentagon refused to comment on the media reports pointing out the fact that US intelligence data was not subject to disclosure. However, the Pentagon’s spokesman alleged that Russia might be setting up an air base in Latakia.
"We have seen movement of people and things that would indicate that they plan to use that base there, south of Latakia, as a forward air operating base," Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis told a news briefing.
At the same time, the Pentagon admitted that Russia had sent neither combat aircraft nor striking helicopters to the airfield.
Riad Haddad, the Syrian ambassador to Russia, called the Western allegations of Russian military involvement in Syria “lies” in an interview with Russian TV Channel Russia24 on Monday.
“The talk of your (Russian) troop presence on the Syrian territory is a lie spread by Western countries, the United States," he said adding that Syria has been “cooperating with Russia for 30-40 years in various areas, including the military sphere” and emphasizing that “all this is done in line with agreements sealed between [the two] countries.”
Earlier, Russia confirmed the presence of its military specialists in Syria, who work as advisers.
“Russia has never made a secret of military-technical cooperation with Syria. Our country has long been supplying weapons and military equipment to Syria under the existing bilateral contracts,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said last week. “There are also Russian military advisers in Syria who provide training in the use of the arriving equipment,” she added.
Russian president, Vladimir Putin, also spoke of Russian aid to Syria and stressed that Russia has been acting in compliance with international law as well as with contracts signed between the two countries.
“We are providing Syria with significant support anyway, both in equipment and personnel training, and armaments. We signed major contracts with Syria some five to seven years ago, and we are complying with them in full,” he said at the Eastern Economic Forum in the Russian Far East city of Vladivostok on September 4.
Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, has also repeatedly emphasized that Russia supports Syria in its fight against Islamic State adding that Moscow’s main goal is fighting terrorism.
“We support the fight of the Syrian government against so-called Islamic State, which neither represents Islam, nor happens to be a state,” Sergey Lavrov said on Friday.
“I can tell you once again, that our servicemen and military experts remain there [in Syria] for the maintenance of Russian [military] hardware and assisting the Syrian army in using this hardware, there’s training under way,” he added, stressing that military hardware supplies will continue.