The Russian contribution to conflict in Syria is not limited to air power. There are indications that Russian military personnel is taking part in fighting on the ground.
A few days ago, the Kuwaiti daily ‘Al Rai‘ reported that Russian ground troops have been providing cover for T-90 tanks which have attacked Idlib and Latakia. According to the report Russian troops have taken over strategic positions. (Jerusalem Post, Nov 23)
These tanks are used by the Russian Armed Forces and were not exported to Syria.
A senior official was quoted in the Kuwaiti report: “Russian live maneuver required the use of 130 mm artillery battalion backed by a heavy air bombardment to the hill before the advance of the infantry as a test of the troops’ readiness and to raise the efficiency of engagement of the Russian forces in further battles on the Syrian soil.” (ValueWalk, Nov 24)
The German magazine ‘Der Spiegel’ claims in its latest edition that 2’000 Russian soldiers are stationed in Syria, including ground forces and artillery. The report concludes that the Russian military campaign is not limited to the bases around Tartus and Latakia. Traces of Russian soldiers on social networks indicate Russian involvement in Homs, Hama and Aleppo.
On Nov 7, the Syrian news agency ‘Sana’ published a video of fightings in the east of Homs. The footage shows several howitzers (Msta-B, 152 mm) in action. The men who operated the artillery were dressed in clothes that look like tropical uniforms of the Russian army. Moscow (unintentionally) confirmed the existence of its artillery around in Syria. In a briefing of the general staff the monitors in the background showed a map of the frontline indicating a Msta-B battery around Homs. The unit belongs to the 120th artillery brigade which is supposed to be in Siberia.
The report says that at least two soldiers of the military intelligence GRU have been killed on ground operations. They were buried in Rostov on Don on Nov 12. (Der Spiegel, Nov 28; see also SpiegelOnline, Nov 27)