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Russia: We never ‘concealed’ giving arms to Syria

Syrian military official told Reuters there has recently been a ‘big shift’ in Russian military support, including new weapons and training

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Russia says it has never concealed the fact that it supplied military equipment to Syria aimed at ‘fighting terrorism,’ RIA Novosti news agency cited a foreign ministry spokeswoman as saying on Monday.

The agency, citing the ministry’s spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, also reported that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in a phone conversation it is “premature” to speak about Russia’s participation in military operations in Syria.

A Syrian military official told Reuters there has recently been a “big shift” in Russian military support, including new weapons and training.

“Our ties are always developing but in these days a qualitative shift has happened. We call it a qualitative shift in Arabic, which means big,” the Syrian official said.

U.S. concerns over Russian moves

Russia’s Lavrov in recent days reiterated the Russian view that Assad is a legitimate leader, slammed the U.S. position to the contrary as “counterproductive”, and likened the west’s approach to Syria to its failures in Iraq and Libya.

A steady flow of Iranian officials to Damascus has also underlined Tehran's support for an ally who has safeguarded its interests in the Levant in alliance with Lebanon's Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed group fighting alongside Assad in Syria.

Earlier on Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry expressed American concerns over reports of Russia’s enhanced military build-up in Syria in a telephone call over the weekend with Lavrov.

“The secretary made clear that if such reports were accurate, these actions could further escalate the conflict, lead to greater loss of innocent life, increase refugee flows and risk confrontation with the anti-ISIL coalition operating in Syria,” the department said, using a different acronym for ISIS.