Russia’s defense ministry said Monday its planes made hundreds of sorties in support of Kurdish and local militias in eastern Syria, predicting that the whole area will soon be free of militant fighters.
The statement came the day after a Russian military delegation met with officials of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units militia (YPG), which acknowledged receiving direct support from Moscow.
“Russian aviation carried out 672 sorties and bombed over 1450 targets in the interests of supporting the offensive by the militias of eastern Euphrates tribes and Kurdish militias,” the defense ministry statement said.
The YPG formed the bulk of the Syrian Democratic Forces, an Arab-Kurdish alliance that ousted ISIS from swathes of northern and eastern Syria, with help from the US-led coalition.
The area east of the Euphrates River has for months been the area of operations by the US-backed SDF, which includes Kurdish and Arab fighters. Russia has meanwhile been helping regime forces battle ISIS militants west of the Euphrates.
In September, Russia accused the SDF of targeting Syrian regime forces with artillery fire and even threatened to retaliate if the strikes repeat.
The SDF in turn accused Moscow of striking its forces several times during the drive, which makes the announcement by both Moscow and the YPG all the more surprising.
“All activities of the armed militias to the east of the Euphrates are coordinated by the staff of Russian contingent in Syria in Hmeimim,” General-Mayor Yevgeny Poplavsky, who participated in Sunday’s meeting in Syria’s Deir Ezzor province, was quoted as saying in the Russian defense ministry statement.
Poplavsky said Russia’s military advisors are on the ground working with the militias .
“In the coming days all Syrian territory east of the Euphrates will be completely liberated from terrorists,” he said.
Russian officers are also helping local religious and tribal leaders to govern the area and will help deliver humanitarian aid, he added.