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Increased Level of Russian Aircraft in Syria Represents 'Force Protection'

© REUTERS / www.Stratfor.com/Airbus Defense and SpaceAn Airbus Defence and Space satellite image courtesy of Stratfor, a geopolitical intelligence and advisory firm in Austin, Texas, shows at least 16 Russian combat aircraft stationed at the Bassel al Assad air base near the Syrian town of Latakia September 20, 2015
An Airbus Defence and Space satellite image courtesy of Stratfor, a geopolitical intelligence and advisory firm in Austin, Texas, shows at least 16 Russian combat aircraft stationed at the Bassel al Assad air base near the Syrian town of Latakia September 20, 2015 - Sputnik International
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US Secretary of State John Kerry said that the level and type of Russian aircraft in Syria represents "force protection."

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WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — Increased number of Russian aircraft in Syria represents force protection in the region, US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday.

“They [Russia] have increased aircraft…[which] could raise some questions, but for the moment, it is the judgement of our military and most experts that the level and type represents basically force protection,” Kerry said.

On Monday, unnamed US officials claimed four Su-30 fighter jets were flown to Syria's Latakia airfield on Friday, with an additional 12 Su-25 and 12 Su-24 attack aircraft joining them over the weekend, according to media reports.

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US media reported that ground forces now included more than 500 Russian servicemen, as well as 36 personnel carriers, nine tanks and two air defense missiles systems.

Secretary Kerry added that increased Russian aircraft in Syria is "not a challenge to our [US] influence or to our presence."

Kerry announced on Sunday that he would meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to discuss the situation in Syria within the framework of the 70th UN General Assembly in New York.

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