I reported this from an early Israeli sourced article, because it wasn’t picked up by the media, I thought it may be erroneous.
I published a link at Moon of Alabama where bloggers are Moscow watchers, only to gain more doubts. Soon the Russia media reacted …
After the specific denial by Russia the Ynet News article had no merit, some bits of the puzzle spread slowly from bloggers on the Internet.
In following days more denials from Putin’s spokesperson and finally the confirmation from president Putin himself: “There is truth to the story of Russia’s support for the Assad regime.”
The Kremlin has dismissed media reports alleging that Russian jets are to participate in attacks against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in Syria.
“One shouldn’t believe these reports,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Wednesday.
On Monday, Israeli news site Ynet news reported that a Russian “expeditionary force” has arrived in Syria to set up a camp at a government airbase near Damascus in order to conduct air strikes against IS positions.
The report, which cited unnamed Western diplomats, added that “thousands of Russian military personnel are set to touch down in Syria, including advisers, instructors, logistics personnel, technical personnel, members of the aerial protection division, and pilots who will operate the aircraft.”
Western media organizations have recently been making strong claims about Russia’s alleged military involvement in Syria, to the point that US Secretary of State John Kerry started calling Russian FM Sergey Lavrov, sharing his concerns and adding more fuel to speculations.
The media frenzy around the suspected Russian military involvement in Syria reignited after President Putin’s answer was taken out of context when he was asked to clarify whether Russia is ready to take part in military operations against the Islamic State militants in Syria.
“You know, this is a separate issue and we see what is going on right now. Say, the American aviation is making certain strikes. So far, their efficiency has not been very high, but it is too early to say that we are ready to do it,” Putin said.
“However, 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 ful.”
President Putin explained, reminding his audience, that on many occasions before, Russia has honored all contracts signed with the Syrian government.
Yet media outlets worldwide considered the Russian president’s remark somehow sensational, presenting it as nothing less than the first official acknowledgment of Moscow’s military involvement in the Syrian civil war.
However, some bloggers have dug deeper in social media and found evidence Russia’s “green men” have been shipped out on Russia’s Navy vessels with final destiny Syria …
For the first time since the advent of this armed conflict in Syria, the Russian Federation is providing the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) with satellite imagery in order to promote the military cooperation between the two countries and to fulfill its promise to boost its support for the latter.
According to an SAA source, the Russian Federation sent a military delegation to meet with the logistical wing of the Syrian Arab Army in the port-city of Tartous on Tuesday; this marked the first time that the two countries agreed to direct intervention through technological resources.
The source added that Russia’s intervention through technological resources is meant to obstruct the growth of terrorism within Syria’s borders and to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) – a terrorist group that is currently operating in a half dozen countries in the Middle East.
A boost in technology is not the only thing the Russian Federation is providing the Syrian Arab Army; reports of an increased supply of weapons, including heavy armory, are said to be arriving into Syria’s ports in the coming weeks.
Last week, the Syrian Arab Army showcased some of its armory at the battles of Al-Zabadani and the Al-Ghaab Plain, including the BTR-82 armored personnel carrier; however, after inquiring about the weapons delivery, the military source stated he could not divulge information regarding the heavy armory.
In spring 2015, government troops suffer huge defeats close to Latakia, losing Idlib in March and Jisr al-Shughur in April. Latakia is strategically important for Assad: this is Syria’s largest port, and close to it there is an international airport/airbase, where both Russian humanitarian aid and military hardware have been unloaded. To the south of the airbase there’s Tartus, housing Russia’s naval depot.
Due to this threat, a quick shift of Kremlin strategy occurs: the Tartus depot suddenly becomes important for Russia once again, talks are renewed of turning it into a bona fide naval base, Tartus sees an influx of military vehicles and Russian soldiers. The Tartus depot used to house but 4 Russian seamen servicing it. Now it has hundreds of soldiers and heavy vehicles.
In late August, fighting close to Latakia goes on. Combat footage captures a Russian-made BTR-82A with a color scheme and number characteristic of Russian military units. As the APC is shooting, we can hear orders to the gunner in Russian. Several days later, in Western Idlib governorate, Jabhaat al Nusra (Al Qaeda) spot a Russian Pchela-1T UAV. 3 fighter jets are also spotted there, believed by many to be Russian.
Meanwhile, posts appear on social networks about contract soldiers being sent to Tartus (while in early 2015 draftees went to Tartus as well) for long periods from 3 to 8 months.
Based on all of the above, our team believes that currently Russian marines have been moved to Syria to guard and strengthen the Tartus depot as well as the airbase close to Latakia. We believe infantry does not take part in the fighting. However, we believe that Russian vehicles with Russian crews do go into battle. Support is also rendered at least by Russian UAVs.
h/t b @MofA