Russia has increased its deployment of warplanes to Syria but so far they appear to be positioned to defend their own base rather than to mount an offensive campaign, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday.
“Yes, they have increased aircraft and there are certain kinds of aircraft there which, depending on what Russia’s decision is about its long-term intentions, could raise questions,” Kerry said.
“But for the moment, it is the judgment of our military and most experts that the level and type represents basically force protection for their deployment to an airbase, given the fact that it is in an area of conflict.”
U.S. says Russia deployed 28 combat planes
This kind of aircraft suggests that the Russians intend to exert their combat power outside of Latakia in an offensive role.Jeffrey White, Analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy
“There are 28 fighter and bomber aircraft” at an airfield in the western Syrian province of Latakia, one of the officials told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
A second official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the figure and added there were also about 20 Russian combat and transport helicopters at the base.
That official also said Russia was operating drones over Syria, but did not give additional details.
According to the officials, Russia has sent 12 SU-24 attack aircraft, 12 SU-25 ground attack aircraft and four Flanker fighter jets.
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Analyst Jeffrey White of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said: “They are not going to sit around and defend the airfield or maybe even the province of Latakia.
“This kind of aircraft suggests that the Russians intend to exert their combat power outside of Latakia in an offensive role.”
Moscow has been on a diplomatic push to get the coalition of Western and regional powers fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group in Syria to join forces with Assad against the extremists.
The U.S.-led coalition is carrying out almost daily strikes against the ISIS extremists in Syria.
(With AFP and AP)SHOW MORE