Russian deployment in Syria

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See also Russian fleet in the Mediterranean

In September 2015 Russia deployed a large contingent or air and land forces to Syria. On September 30 Russia launched airstrikes on ISIS, al-Nusra Front and other rebel groups, including ones created and supported by the US. The move came as a surprise to US officials, despite the evidence collected here and despite president Putin's speech at the US General Assembly on September 26.

As of October 2, 2015 the Russian strike force consists of over 50 aircraft, including twelve Su-24s, twelve Su-25s, four Su-30s, six Su-34s and a number of helicopters. Initial claims of the presence of six MiG-31s have not been confirmed.

Russian jets parked on the runway of Latakia International Airport on September 21, 2015
- 4 x Su-30
- 12 x Su-25
- 12 x Su-24

Sources

Background

Observations

The Hmeymim airbase on January 31, 2016 after four Su-35 fighters have been deployed. The planes performed over 6,000 sorties in the first 4 months of operations with a loss of one Su-24 to Turkish fighters.
- 4 x Su-35 (new)
- 6 x Su-34
- 4 x Su-30
- 12 x Su-25
- 12 x Su-24 (one replacement aircraft)

Pro-Russian sources

  • Russia prepares army for Syrian deployment - Clara Weiss, WSWS, 12 June 2012
  • The Russian army is beginning to engage in Syria - Thierry Meyssan, Voltaire Network, 24 August 2015
  • Russia and Syria: The Die Is Cast - Israel Shamir, UNZ.COM, September 3, 2015
    Now we can confirm that to the best of our knowledge, despite denials Russia has cast its lot and made a very important decision to enter the Syrian war. This decision may yet save Syria from total collapse and incidentally save Europe, too, from being swept by refugee waves. The Russian air force will ostensibly fight Da’esh, but probably (as Michael Weiss guessed) they will also bomb not just Da’esh but the US-allied opposition of al-Nusra (formerly al-Qaeda) and other non-Da’esh Islamic extremists for the simple reason that they can’t be distinguished from Da’esh.
  • Is Russia Preparing Military Intervention to Back Assad in Syria - LaRouchePAK, September 3, 2015
  • The preparation for Russian military deployment in Syria continues - Thierry Meyssan, 14 September 2015
  • Russia is constructing a military base in Syria - Politikus.ru via Saker, September 21, 2015
  • The CSTO arrives in Iraq and Syria, Thierry Meyssan, September 21, 2015
  • Russian Army starts destroying Islamic State in Syria - Pravda, 22.09.2015 (translated from Politonline.ru)
    "The Russian military have deployed a layered defense system and continue fulfilling contracts for the delivery of modern weapons to Syria. That's all I can say officially. I have no right to either deny and confirm whether the Russian aviation is involved in the military actions," a high-ranking source in the General Staff of the Russian Federation told Politonline.ru. He added that Russian troops have already repulsed terrorists' attacks before, quite successfully.
  • Russia supplies Assad with MiG fighters - Middle East Monitor, 22 September 2015 10:27
    Russia will supply the Syrian regime of Bashar Al-Assad with 12 MiG-29-M/M2 fighter jets by 2017, media reports have claimed. According to Russia’s Kommersant newspaper, the government in Moscow will ensure that nine of the aircraft are ready by 2016. Unnamed sources said that some Yak fighters are ready for delivery.
  • Russia goes to war with ISIS: Why and how? - RT, September 30, 2015
  • Putin press conference -TASS, full text (Russian) (English) . Among unexpected answers,-- not sure that a Russian base in Syria is a must, 'if we need to get somebody, we can do it anyway' (see an answer to Sergei Brilyov in the full transcript for details). Protecting a long established Russian warm waters navy base in Syria is in general believed to be one of the reasons of Russian involvement, this casts some doubt on that wisdom.
  • Kadyrov claims his commando fighters are taking part in operation in Syria, and had some casualties; and claims that IS was prepared by NATO instructors (he says he knows because his men have joined and passed those training courses)-report and video from Chechnya, Feb. 8, 2016. Video shows training exercises, with Kadyrov taking part; a group of men said to return back after joining IS; a central mosque, where a decision banning wahhabism was adopted; and an imam visiting a men arrested for joining 'illegal armed formations' (possibly in Syria). Video released shortly after controversy created by verbal, media, and possibly legal clashes between Kadyrov and Russian opposition; this is briefly addressed in the video. Video also shows meeting of Kadyrov with Zakayev relatives in Chechnya and offering to return back (Relatives praised the visit by Kadyrov, but Zakayev declined, gave an interview to Echo of Moscow).
Peskov comment: there are only federal Russian armed forces, and internal troops, no Chechen spetsnaz (Kadyrov also presented his fighters as a part of Russian forces)
Further clarification by Kadyrov (they are volunteers...pretend to be IS...)
  • Russian DM Shoigu visits Khmeimim airbase in Syria, meets Assad-report and video, June 16, 2016

Doubtful comments

Russian opposition claims

  • Fontanka.ru, on 'Wagner' private military company (in Russian).

Western claims

Shows results of 5 years of civil war (Idlib, Aleppo)-blames Russia for everything. (Russia bombed court house, hospital, and fruit market, in particular; no effort made to figure out who is really to blame). Update seems to be, text over video, driving home talking points for dummies, now (after Russian withdrawal) removed.
Moderate groups could get antiaircraft weapons if cease-fire collapses, officials say
Denied by US diplomats and military, according to Alexey Borodavkin , Russian representative at UN in Geneva- TASS, Apr. 17, 2016
Russian MOD denied
'Russian warplanes bomb elite British-backed Syrian rebels', Telegraph, June 17, 2016
It is said that when Western-backed rebels were bombed, Russian and US planes were in the same area and that communication failed (quoting CNN report). Urgent consultations between militaries were conducted.
The U.S. diverted armed FA-18s to the area after the first round of two strikes, and the pilots then tried to call the Russians on a previously agreed-upon pilot-to-pilot communications channel but did not receive an answer.

Israeli

Disinformation

Al-Shayrat Airbase

AEW&C

  • Russia operates 'Mainstay' AEW&Cs over Syria - Tim Ripley, IHS Jane's Defence Weekly, January 10, 2016
    Russia has begun operating Beriev A-50 'Mainstay' airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft over Syria in support of the air group it has deployed to the country.

Saudi

  • 22 July 2016. Saudi Arabia is ready to offer Russia's economic cooperation with the countries of the Persian Gulf and a major investment in exchange for Moscow's refusal to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, Adel al-Dzhubeyr in an interview with the Brussels edition of "Politico." -Interfax .

Official Russian statements

NovoRosSyria
S-400 and Fort/S-300 were deployed after Russian SU-24 plane was downed by Turkish F-16 on 24 Nov, 2015.
Russian Air Force strikes ISIS around Deir ez-Zor as jihadists prepare to storm key Syrian city, RT (Engl.), Jan. 25, 2016.
  • New super-maneuverable Su-35C fighter planes arrived to Syria, according to Russian MOD-TASS, 1 Feb. 2016
  • Putin meets DM of Iran, TASS, Feb. 16, 2016
  • TASS, 12 July 2016. Six long-range Tu-22M3 bombers flew from Russia and performed strikes against terrorist targets in Syria east of Palmyra, Es Suhne and Arak. This is seen as retaliation for helicopter pilots death on 8 July 2016.

Valdai Discussion club

Putin, October 27. 2016 (improved automatic translation): Stopping the bloodshed and launching the political process fails. It would seem that, after long negotiations, an enormous effort and complex trade-offs a united front against terrorism finally began to form .

However, this did not happen, it is not actually created. Our personal agreement with the President of the United States did not work and in Washington there were forces which did everything for these agreements not to be implemented in practice. All this demonstrates the inexplicable, I would say, the irrational desire of Western countries over and over again to repeat their mistakes, how our people say, stepping on the same rake

Western reactions

See also US involvement in Syria

US

Turkey

Israel

Saudi Arabia

Visit of Saudi Arabia’s king to Russia before year end possible — Kremlin TASS

Media

Chinese forces?

Naval deployment

Moved to Russian fleet in the Mediterranean

Analysis

Analysis of new aspects of 'terror wars'. Modern weapons are more expensive than their targets, and using them carry unacceptable risks; while Western covertly supported rag-tag terrorists are cheap. Army cannot defend against this as there is no front line and strikes can occur at any town/settlement where army fighting is very difficult (analogy with cockroaches often made). Recommendations include: going after source, not just some bandits, including closing and protecting borders (using technical and military means); pressuring external supporters; economic analysis; attention to information warfare --with being clear who is enemy in particular. Spends considerable time describing how Syrian local volunteers ('opolchenie'), when they were in place in advance and with properly organised interaction and training with regular army prevented capture of their territory; recommends working on this in Russia, highlighting danger of Syrian type conflict in Russia. Talks about bringing positions of civilians and rulers closer together.

Russian involvement in military operations

Main article: Russian airstrikes in Syria

Reported Deaths

  • Around October 20 (apparently) Reuters reports, 3 Russian volunteers (not sent by Moscow) killed in Latakia, near Salma, fighting with the SAA.
  • VDC records one Russian fatality so far, Baran Dimitri Shalkov, also killed in Latakia, back on September 12. --Caustic Logic (talk) 17:26, 25 November 2015 (UTC)
That would be fairly impossible name for a Russian speaker; may be other Slav (e.g. Bulgarian, Serb-unsure what exactly)--Resup (talk) 20:22, 25 November 2015 (UTC)

Those are deaths reported as combat. There's also the young soldier Vadim Kostenko, also in Latakia, but a technician in more formal service at the Hmeymim air base. Moscow says he committed suicide over a broken relationship. Some doubt this, but there's no known rebel presence nearby. --Caustic Logic (talk) 17:34, 25 November 2015 (UTC)

  • 24.11.2015 Su-24 captain Oleg Peshkov (lieutenant colonel) was killed after bailing out from his plane shot down by Turkey. Marine Alexander Pozynich was killed during search and rescue operation. As announced by Putin, Oleg Peshkov was awarded the title of Hero of Russia (posthumously); Alexander Pozynich was awarded Order of Courage (posthumously) -interfax.
  • Magomet Khasiev (adopted name;name at birth: Evgenii Yudin). Execution shown on IS video. Lifenews determined identity; adoptive mother interview; Kadyrov: he is a Russian-- a Chechen... (does not believe he worked for services; according to Lifenews, he was on a wanted list in Russia for joining IS. --Resup (talk) 00:13, 4 December 2015 (UTC)
  • March 17, 2016. Overall, 4 killed during the deployment (two in SU 24 incident, a military advisor, and another serviceman), and one reported suicide. Regnum.ru
  • Russian spetznas officer doing fire correction/target designation near Palmyra died as a hero. It is said that he was surrounded and called 'a fire onto himself' (ie directed a fire strike at his own location)-TASS--Resup (talk) 20:57, 24 March 2016 (UTC)
Name of the officer was published.
  • Another Russian death announced, Vadim, from Orenburg, Russia. According to Orenburg local media, he participated in fighting in Syria; other details of his death are not given. His service in MOI troops ended and he was discharged 12 years ago. According to Vasilii Panchenkov, MOI spokesman, Vadim was drafted in 2002-2004 and served as a baker in spetnaz battalion 'Vitiaz'. He was discharged after that. His circumstances after discharge were not traced by MOI, and this is not done in the case of other soldiers or sergeants.
  • 11 May, 2016, Homs province, Syria. While escorting vehicles of the Russian Center for reconciliation of warring parties, as a result of shelling by militants, Russian soldier Anton Erygin was seriously injured and later died of his injuries.
  • 19 June 2016. It is reported that a sergeant of 336th Marine Brigade from Baltiysk Andrey Tymoshenko was killed, preventing suicide bomber attack on humanitarian aid distribution place in a desert area of Homs.
A video emerged of suicide bomber attack near Palmyra. One soldier has uniform resembling Russian, others are Syrian. It is uncertain whether this is the same event, but commenters speculate that it is. Palmyra is in Homs governorate, so reports may be consistent. (Similar discussion is in Rusvesna article).
On July 8, 2016 Russian training military pilots Ryafagat Khabibulin and Yevgeny Dolgin were making a test flight of a Syrian Mi-25 helicopter with ammunition in the Homs region (Syria)," the defense ministry said. "At the time, a large detachment of ISIS gunmen mounted an offensive against Syrian troops to the east of Palmyra and breaking through the defenses, made a rapid dash into the area, threatening to capture the heights." Syrian reserve units that could be redeployed to the area to curb the terrorists’ advance were not available then, the ministry said. "The crew received a request from the Syrian grouping’s command to deliver air strikes at the advancing combatants," it said. "Crew commander Ryafagat Khabibulin made a decision to attack the terrorists. Owing to the Russian pilots’ correct actions, the terrorists’ attack was thwarted." "After having run out of ammunition, the turning around helicopter was hit by militants’ gunfire from the ground and crashed in the area controlled by the Syrian governmental army. The crew died," the defense ministry said. The Russian military pilots were nominated for top state awards.
Interfax, quoting military sources, claim that "terrorists" (IS from the context) used US-made TOW missile to shot down the helicopter.
English-language version by Mirror
Shoot down appeared on video
For comparison, TOW 2B Aero (wireless) missile in slow motion
In Russian sources, discussion on whether this is Mi 25 or MI 35 (they look similar, but Mi 35 have shorter armament 'wings' and non-retractable landing gear). Not clearly seen on the video either way.
  • 22 July, 2016. Private Nikita Shevchenko, who served under contract, was killed by IED explosion in Syria, accompanying food and water convoy. Presented to the state award posthumously. TASS.
Conflict intelligence team (Moscow based opposition blog founded by Ruslan Leviev, a Bellingcat contributor) offers some doubts, but not a resolution. (Some other thing have exploded in Syria in those days, indeed...).

Russian civilians

  • 19 Aug., 2016. Irina Barakiat lived in Syria for 13 years. She was seriously wounded in Aleppo in August 2016. According to report and video, during shelling by rebels, her apartment was hit; she covered with her body a 'balloon' (apparently do-it-yourself mortar shell) protecting her 3 children. She lost a leg and a foot, and suffered multiple injuries, but survived and was evacuated to St. Petersburg.

Downed aircraft

  • Russia's Mi-8 Chopper Shot Down in Syria, on his way back after delivering aid to Aleppo, Sputnik News, 1 Aug, 2016; There were 5 people on board. Dead bodies were dragged through dirt, Cassad. Apparently one ID card shows a woman.
Woman photo is on a driver license but not a genuine one, a joke, souvenir, or a fake, according to this
Kremlin reports all those on board Russian helicopter Mi-8 shot down in Syria died TASS (Engl).
Details on downed helicopter offered in this twitter post
Crew is named
Retaliation strikes reported
  • A video emerged called "Russian military jet has been downed in #Aleppo 01/08/2016". This video is fake, crash sound added later. No smoke, fire, sound, pilots ejecting, etc.
According to comment, in the 'prime source' it was noted that this is just Su-24 fly-by, not a shoot down (so crash sound is added than)

Video

  • 17.11.2015 24 cruise missiles launched from long-range bombers

  • 20.11.2015 18 Calibr cruise missiles launched from Caspian sea ships

  • 8.12.2015 Calibr cruise missiles launched from "Rostov-on-Don" submarine in the Mediterranean

2016

Announced main forces withdrawal

  • March 14, 2016. Putin: Russia to 'withdraw main forces from March 15'-TASS (Rus)., (Eng).; video; kremlin.ru. Hopes it will increase trust and help peace negotiations. (Russian bases in Tartus and airforce base at Kmeimim to continue as usual, has to be fully protected).
(So far, so good...).

Putin-Obama phone call: kremlin.ru, whitehouse.gov

March 15, 2016. First group of planes left -report, video.

"If the Russian Federation gets no response from the United States to these proposals, it will proceed starting March 22 to unilateral application of the rules specified in the Agreement," head of the Main Operations Directorate of the Russian General Staff Sergei Rudskoi said.
"We emphasize that military force will be used only after we receive credible evidence of systematic violations by armed groups of the commitments made within the framework of the Joint US-Russian statement on the cessation of hostilities in Syria as of February 22, 2016. Military force will not be used against the groups, observing the ceasefire regime, as well as against the civilian population and civilian facilities", he added.
US Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Moscow on March 23-24, TASS, March 19, 2016

Russian Centre for reconciliation

Bulletins of the Russian Centre for reconciliation of opposing sides in the Syrian Arab Republic

24 May, 2016. Negotiations with some groups, trying to separate their territory from (clearly) terrorist groups, and ensure that shelling is not conducted from territory of their control, will be continued past 25 May.

Russian Humanitarian Operation

At a press conference by Sergei Rudskoi, Russian military announced the start of humanitarian operation in Syria. Russia accused rebel of selling aid, delivering weapons instead; and started its own humanitarian operation by delivering aid to the Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor (a government -held stronghold in Eastern Syria)- Rusvesna, report and videos. Jan 15, 2016

Increased deployment, Sept 2016

More SU 24 and SU 34 deployed, 'workhorse' SU 25 attack planes prepared but not moved yet. Rusvesna, 30 Sept 2016.

October: Russia moves S-300VM anti-aircraft missile system to Tartus.