Putin: Russia may deploy forces back to Syria ‘in mere hours’ if necessary

© Alexander Kondratyuk
While Russia is withdrawing most of its forces from Syria, they could be deployed there again in a matter of hours if such a need arises, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated. He added that the Russian bases in Syria are well-protected.

“Of course, if such a need arises, Russia can, in several hours, build up its forces in Syria to a size capable of dealing with an escalating situation and use the entire range of means at its disposal,” Putin said.

“We wouldn’t like that. A military escalation is not our choice. We hope the parties involved would show common sense and that both the government and the opposition will stick to the peace process,” he added.

Putin was summarizing the results of the Russian five-month-long anti-terror campaign in Syria at a solemn ceremony in Moscow.

The Russian president said Moscow was open in saying from the start of the operation that it was a limited campaign with a set deadline.

“We have created the conditions for a peace process. We have established constructive and positive cooperation with the US and a number of other countries, with respectable opposition forces in Syria, which really want to end the war and find a political solution of the conflict. You, Russian soldiers, paved that way,” Putin told the Russian military personnel who took part in the campaign.

He added that the Syrian Army, with Russia’s support, can now hold out against terrorist forces and take back terrorist-controlled territories.

The president acknowledged that the pull-out may be reversed, if necessary, even though Moscow would not want to see such a development. He also stressed that advanced air defense systems deployed in Syria for protection of Russian military sites remain there and would attack any hostile forces threatening them.

“We stick to the fundamental international laws and believe that nobody has the right to violate Syria’s sovereign airspace. We have created an effective mechanism for prevention of air incidents with the Americans, but all our partners have been warned that we would use our air defense systems against any target that we considered a threat to the Russian troops,” Putin said.

The Syrian operation cost Russia some $480 million, Putin said, and most of the funding came from the Russian Defense Ministry, which used money allocated for military training in 2015 to foot the bill.

5 Russian soldiers die during Syria op

On Thursday, Putin handed out awards and decorations to the participants of the operation in the presence of the widows of the servicemen who lost their lives during the five-month campaign in Syria.

The President confirmed four deaths in combat.

“Here, in this hall… we have the widows of our brothers in arms, who gave their lives in the fight against the terrorists. They remained faithful to the oath and military duty until the end. We’ll always remember their courage and nobility; that they were real men and brave soldiers,” Putin said, personally mentioning the four women by name.

Military pilot, Oleg Peshkov, died on November 24, 2014 as he was shot dead by the terrorists after catapulting from a Su-24 bomber, which was shot down by Turkey for an unproven airspace violation.

Marine Aleksandr Pozynich was killed during a search and rescue operation on the Turkish Syrian border aimed at retrieving Peshkov’s co-pilot.

The names of the two other deceased Russian servicemen – Ivan Cheremisin and Fedor Zhuravlev – only became known to the public at the ceremony at the Kremlin.

In late October, the death of a fifth serviceman was reported, with Defense Ministry saying that Vadim Kostenko committed suicide.

President Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, later confirmed to Reuters that the Russian military lost five of its troops in Syria.