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6 Jul, 2023 09:00

Russia kick-starts air drill in Middle East

The joint exercise in Syria is aimed at bolstering defenses, the Russian military said

The Russian Air Force has launched a joint exercise with its Syrian counterpart, the Defense Ministry in Moscow announced on Thursday.

The two nations are training on “issues of control of the airspace of Syria” and testing the efficiency of Russia’s air defenses in the Middle Eastern country, a short statement by the Russian military said.

Electronic warfare units are involved in the exercise, preparing for joint action to counter enemy airstrikes, it added. The drill is scheduled to last until the middle of this month.

Russian military aircraft have been stationed in Syria since 2015, when Moscow acceded to a request by Damascus to provide assistance in its fight against anti-government armed groups, including militant jihadists. The intervention helped the Syrian Army to regain control over large swaths of the country’s territory.

The following year, Moscow published the text of a treaty, which Syria and Russia signed to pave the way for the long-term hosting of Russian forces at Khmeimim Airbase. The agreement is indefinite, unless one of the parties chooses to end it, and is free of charge for Moscow.

The US government has been supporting anti-Damascus forces since the early weeks of the Syrian conflict, which broke out in 2011. Washington has imposed harsh economic sanctions on the country, which are hampering its reconstruction efforts, and maintains a military base on Syrian soil against the wishes of its government.