Russia did not deny the fact that it is sending military equipment to Syria, and it will continue to provide assistance to Syrian authorities, according to Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman of the Russian Foreign Ministry.
In an interview with RIA Novosti on Monday, Zakharova emphasized that Russia never concealed that it is providing military aid to Syria.
According to her, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov confirmed to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that Russia is supporting Syria’s fight against terrorism.
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Zakharova said, “Lavrov confirmed that such assistance has always been provided and will continue to be provided and that the Russian side has never hid the fact that it is supplying military technology to the official Syrian authorities in support of their fight against terror.”
She added that the Russian Foreign Minister encouraged the U.S. Secretary of State to support his initiative of launching an anti-terror coalition with the Syrian government and opposition.
Furthermore, Zakharova said Lavrov failed last month to persuade Saudi Arabia and the Syrian opposition leadership to support his planned coalition against terrorism.
Russia is facing security issues in its North Caucus region, where Islamist insurgency is growing. The Russian government has a legitimate concern about ISIS. Hundreds of Russians already joined ISIS and vowed to attack Moscow due to its longstanding support for the Syrian government.
U.S. concern that Russia could escalate conflict in Syria
There were reports that Russia is moving new military equipment, planes, and personnel into Syria over the past few days. U.S. military officials were concerned that the Russian government plans to establish a new military base to increase its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
A senior U.S. military official told the Wall Street Journal, “You see all the indications that they are getting ready to establish a major air operations hub.” Russian passenger and cargo planes entered Syria’s airbase in Latakia.
During a telephone conversation over the weekend, Kerry raised his concern to Lavrov that Russia’s military presence in Syria “could further escalate the conflict, lead to greater loss of innocent lives, increase refugee flows and risk confrontation” with an anti- ISIS coalition operating in the country, according to the statement released by U.S. State Department.
Lavrov responded that it was “premature” to discuss Russia’s participation in the military of operations in Syria. The Russian government also rejected allegations that it has military ambitions in Syria. Russia has a strategic naval base in Syria, and it is worried about the potential defeat of its key ally in the Middle East.
Russia has no intention of a direct military involvement in Syria
Russian President Vladimir Putin also responded to the concerns of the United States regarding his government’s military activities in Syria. He said, “We already provide pretty serious support and equipment to Syria, with military training and weaponry. We have major contracts that were concluded five or seven years ago, and that we are delivering completely. So, we’re considering various options, but at the moment, [direct military involvement is] still not on the agenda.”
U.S. officials cannot determine the true intentions of Russia in Syria. Some military officials suggested that Russia is probably preparing the groundwork to intensify its effort to help Assad by launching airstrikes against ISIS.
Others believed that Russia is trying to protect its interests in Syria since it has a naval base in Tartus. Another U.S. military official said, “What’s the true objective here? Is the true objective to keep Assad in power, or to put in another crony? Are they looking to supply more munitions, arms and hardware for Syria, Hezbollah and [Iran’s] Quds Force? I don’t know.”
Russia slams Bulgaria
Meanwhile, Russian slammed Bulgaria for denying its request to allow its cargo planes to fly over its territory, to be able to bring humanitarian aid to Syria.
Bulgarian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Betina Zhoteva explained that they have reasonable doubts that the Russian military planes were not carrying humanitarian aid to Syria.
Zhoteva said, “The planes were said to carry humanitarian aid, but we had information. We had every reason to trust, that the declared cargo was not the real one.” She emphasized that Bulgaria made the decision independently and did not receive any pressure from its NATO partners.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov alleged that Washington pressured Bulgaria to reject Moscow’s request. He said Bulgaria’s decision “raises a question about its sovereign right to make decisions about planes crossing its airspace.”