MOSCOW (Sputnik) — The scale of the Russian presence in Syria is being significantly exaggerated by the Western media as it is limited to military specialists, military experts said.
Earlier in September, Western media outlets, citing local sources, said that Russia had been stepping up its military presence in Syria by sending armaments and troops. Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow was providing considerable support to Syria in terms of equipment, weapons and training, to fight Islamic State (ISIL) and other jihadist groups.
Russian troops could not be sent to Syria without first receiving authorization from the relevant international bodies, President of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems Konstantin Sivkov asserted.
“Until Russia receives official consent from the Syrian side and the United Nations, troops cannot be sent there… We [Russia] have several military personnel there [in Syria], but they are experts and specialists, not soldiers,” Sivkov told RIA Novosti.
He added that the Russians were sent to Syria to deliver military hardware and to train Syrian soldiers in how to use this hardware.
The Russian experts in Syria are just a formal presence in the country, Alexei Fenenko, a leading research fellow at the Russian Academy of Sciences' (RAS) Institute of International Security Studies.
On Monday, The Financial Times newspaper reported about a forthcoming deployment of roughly 2,000 Russian military personnel to an airport in the western Syrian province of Latakia.
The Russian servicemen are being deployed to the airport to help prepare it to receive deliveries from Russia, the military experts explained.
“The airport in Latakia is a key point where Russian military transport planes carrying weaponry could land,” Chief Editor of the Russian National Defense magazine Igor Korotchenko told RIA Novosti.
In its efforts to find a political solution to the Syrian crisis, Russia hosted several rounds of intra-Syrian peace talks between the representatives of country's government and prominent opposition leaders.
At the same time, a US-led coalition, bombing ISIL positions in Syria without approval from Damascus, has been urged by Moscow to join forces with the Syrian government to fight the jihadists. Washington has so far been reluctant to consider such an option, having pledged air support to anti-Assad rebels on the ground.