Russian Soldiers Serving With Pro-Assad Forces In Syrian Civil War

BTR-82A armoured personnel carrier
A recent image of a Russian-supplied BTR-82A armoured personnel carrier serving with the pro-Assad Syrian Arab Army

Most observers of the civil war in Syria are well aware of the military assistance offered by the government of Vladimir Putin to long-time Russian/Soviet ally Bashar al-Assad, with Russia’s billion dollar arms-contracts sustaining both the Damascus regime abroad and the defence industry at home. Since at least 2012 weapons and equipment exported via Rosoboronexport, the state-sanctioned arms agency, have sustained the embattled Syrian dictatorship both directly and through various intermediaries, notably Iran. Without the Russian Federation and the Islamic Republic – and the never-ending flow of “volunteers” from the military wing of Hezbollah – Assad’s government would have succumbed to its diverse enemies months or even years ago.

The excellent Oryx Blog has charted the waxing and waning of the internecine conflict in Syria for the last three years, frequently highlighting the appearance of new, foreign-supplied weapons and equipment in the hands of loyalist or opposition forces. Now it has drawn attention to recent radio traffic featuring Russian-speaking combatants participating in the fighting near the crucial port-city of Latakia (also, Lattakia or اللَاذِقِيَّة‎ al-Lādhiqīyah).

“The regime’s offensive in the Lattakia Governorate continues to reveal previously unknown details about Russia’s involvement in the Syrian Civil War. Apart from the sighting of recently delivered Russian BTR-82A infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs), new evidence now confirms Russian military personnel has a key role in leading the offensive on the ground.

Sound fragments heard in a news report from the Media Wing of the National Defence Force (NDF) covering the offensive in Lattakia, which was also the first to reveal the presence of BTR-82As in Syria, confirm earlier accounts of Russian military personnel being sent to Lattakia in support of the ongoing regime operations in this area. Together with the Syrian Arab Army (SyAA) and the recently arrived Republican Guard, the NDF launched a new offensive aimed at recapturing territory previously lost to the rebels in North-Eastern Lattakia. If it proves successful, the offensive will greatly enhance the regime’s control over its currently endangered heartland, and provide a serious blow to rebel forces.

Although only little of the conversation is heard, it appears to be directed at the crew of the BTR-82A, implicating the vehicle was in fact operated by Russian military personnel. However, when the subject of Russian personnel being sent to Syria was raised on the 4th of August to Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, following comments made by the head of Russia’s Airborne Troops, he reportedly denied requests of such nature had been made by the Syrian regime.”

While there could be other reasons for Russian-speaking individuals serving with the Syrian government forces, notably the use of Moscow-sanctioned military contractors or mercenaries, the possibility remains that these were representatives of the Russian military, specifically associated with the deployment of assembly-line fresh BTR-82A armoured personnel carriers by the loyalist Syrian Arab Army. If the claims are true it illustrates a further disastrous development in the conflict, one likely to prolong the civil war rather than end it. As long as Bashar al-Assad and his inner circle can rely on outside support they will continue to refuse any chance of a negotiated settlement, even with the most flexible of their enemies.

Meanwhile Bellingcat has an investigation into the one hundred plus Americans fighting the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq that is well worth a read.

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12 comments

  1. So the Russians are aiding Assad and his ‘inner circle’ and thus trying to prevent Syria receiving the same fate that befell Libya after NATO decided on ‘regime change’ there? How is that a further disastrous development? Call a spade a spade but NATO determining policy for countries around the world is the biggest disaster.
    I sincerely hope Syria finds relative peace again but I sincerely feel that if the Assad establishment falls then it won’t be long til NATO turn their sights on Iran. The Iranian people are no threat to me or my country and I wouldn’t like to see a London or Washington regime unleashing its destructive policies on the Iranian people…….as they normally come from the sky.

    1. Because outside interference in the affairs of the Middle East for the strategic interests of the outsiders always has been disastrous. The Russians are not acting altruistically, nor is the United States and co. That said I’d rather see an end to Assad and his torture-republic than not. The opportunity to have brought that about has probably been lost.

      I cannot see a US war with Iran this side of a republican party presidency, thank god. Even then, only the lunatics like Trump or Ben Carson would favour that course of action.

  2. ‘NATO is a defensive organisation’. Straight out of 1984 that one Janice lol.

    An sionnach, you said you cannot see a war this side of a Republican Party presidency. What a relief for the Iranian people. But what about after it? Let’s not forget Obama and Hilary were all over the Libyan farce. If you ask the people in the Middle East they’d be hard pressed to differentiate between Clinton or Trump. In fact they would say at least Trump is honest and Clinton is rarely(she let her guard down when she gloated about the murder of Gaddaffi on camera mind). To steal a phrase they are two cheeks of the same arsehole.
    I recall as a teenager the high praise Gorbachev received when he was trying and eventually did bring down the iron curtain. He was lauded by the media in the west. The world was heartened at this east/west hostility was at an end. I then recall Yeltsin taking over the new Russia and watching regular footage of his embarrassing diplomatic escapades. We all laughed and sniggered at this bungling idiot. I would guess a lot of others took satisfaction at how Russia had ended up ie a superpower no more, more of a joke. I would also guess the Russian people were highly embarrassed that their president was scundering them in the eyes of the world? A bit like when the irish are viewed as drink loving bog people in parts of the world perhaps?
    Then the Russians get their act together via Putin and his inner circle by establishing some lost pride to their nation. The west baulks at this and sharpen the knives once again. The Russians were on their knees after the fall of the iron curtain and the west loved it. Putin pulls them off their knees and now hes the new bogeyman? Anyway, the darling of the west,Gorbachev, all those years ago, recently pointed the finger at the U.S. led NATO expansionism as the cause of so much animosity with Russia now. He said Reagan etc promised they would put a halt to their expanding if the Soviet Union was ended.
    As an irish man it pains me to see a character out of father ted leading the 26 counties. A total watery moron who hasn’t the clinkers to stand up to anybody. What the irish would give for a strong leader who isn’t afraid to push back against liars and bullies.

    1. Yeltsin might have been an idiot, but at least when he was in power we had OKay-ish relations with Russia. He recognised our independence and withdrew the Red army from my country and other former Soviet republics. Also we didn’t have to be afraid of a Russian invasion. It all changed when Putin took power. He reversed everything that Russia had achieved during the 90s and started to glorify the USSR and whitewash its crimes. And that’s why we started to worry about the national security of our country. That’s why we joined NATO.

      Ukraine and Georgia didn’t join NATO and EU. They stayed in CIS, kept open borders and had relatively good relations with Russia. And how did Russia repay them? With land grabs, invasions and wars of course.

      If Latvia had not joined NATO I would see the same shit that’s happening in the Eastern Ukraine in my hometown. And I certainly don’t want that. That’s why support for Latvia’s NATO membership is higher than ever before.

      ————-
      What the irish would give for a strong leader who isn’t afraid to push back against liars and bullies.
      ————
      Don’t know about you, but I’m not a dog and I don’t need a master. I could not imagine myself attending a rally and cheering for a “glorious leader”. “Leaders” are for slaves and I’m not one. My country has suffered enough under various “strong leaders”. I prefer democracy – it’s not perfect, but it’s orders of magnitude better than a dictatorship.

      1. What a load of dung. If Putin has restored the Soviet Union I must have missed it?

        With all due respect you slavishly bang the drum of your European imperialist masters that much you sound like a barking dog.

        If the democracy that you favour is better than a dictatorship, why does it seem that the politicians we elect act like dictators? Just like dictators around the world the ‘democratic leaders’ we elect look after their own interests and the interests of their establishments. The people are shafted both ways.

        1. Putin has said quite clearly that he thinks that the collapse of the USSR was the biggest geopolitical catastrophe of the XX century.
          And Russia considers the former Warsaw pact countries to be in its “sphere of influence”. It doesn’t care what those countries think.
          That’s why it invaded Georgia and Ukraine.

          1. In fairness, the United States thinks Central and South America is its sphere of influence, so there’s that. I’m not saying that two wrongs make a right. However Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the United States’ invasion of Iraq? What’s the difference beyond annexation and the number of casualties involved?

          2. ‘Invaded Georgia and Ukraine’…? Come on now there you go again with that drum. We all know it’s more complicated than that. Who can argue with Russia if they make attempts to protect its citizens when the U.S can arrogantly bomb anywhere in the world to protect its citizens as well?
            You conveniently ignored Gorbachev’s recent utterances that NATO encroachment was to blame for Russia’s present difficulties. Remind me how many U.S. bases border Russia these days? And while you are consulting your sources check out how many bases they had immediately prior to the fall of the iron curtain. If Russia has learned anything, it’s not to trust the word of a US president; get it down in writing.

  3. One was a Middle Eastern shithole run by a mad dictator.
    The other is a civilised Eastern European democracy.

  4. Wolfe Tone.
    Do you recognise that the Baltics are sovereign countries and are not part of Russia any more?
    We don’t have to ask for Russian approval in order to join international organisations.
    Is it wrong for us to want more security?

    Also there were no US. soldiers in Latvia before the Ukrainian war – we invited them, because we’re afraid of a potential Russian invasion.

    You really sound like a putinbot btw.

    1. You sound anti Russian btw and yet you continue to chastise people for being anti British imperialism etc? Bullies everywhere should be condemned but it seems that because NATO has given little Latvia some security that you think they are great? It’s fully understandable. I would love NATO too if they had bombed the British out of my country, alas that bully is in NATO so that’s a no go.
      Btw I like the way you passed over my point about Georgia and Ukraine.

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