20:48 GMT +324 September 2017
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    Russian tactical group seen at Hmeymim aerodrome in Syria

    'They Came to Defend Us': Syrian Businesses Welcome Russian Troops

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    While Western nations criticize Russia’s airstrikes in Syria, every day Syrians are praising Moscow for pushing back against terrorist groups like Daesh, also known as IS/the Islamic State. Local businesses are all too happy to oblige their new Russian friends.

    Since September 30, the Russian Defense Ministry has launched a devastating air campaign against Daesh targets in Syria. Operating out of an air base in Latakia, Russian bombers have carried out over 5,000 sorties.

    But the presence of the Russian military is good for more than just security; it’s also helping the country economically, and local shops are more than happy to cater to the soldiers who have kept their country safe.

    "In the past the demand was more for whisky and arak, but with the Russians arriving in Syria, it’s changed to vodka," Ihab, a local store owner, told Al Arabiya News. "So I put these bottles in front so they can grab them first."

    Ihab has even begun to learn Russian so that he can communicate with the soldiers, whom he calls his "new friends."

    A number of businesses in Latakia province are benefiting from the presence of Russian troops, who frequently journey into town for entertainment and refreshments.

    "The Russians are a profitable economic presence, and our sales have gone up more than 20 percent since they don’t argue about prices," Ihab said.

    Mohammad, an employee at an area clothing store, said that most of his customers are Russian. He has hung a Russian flag inside the shop and begun learning the language.

    "They’ve become our friends," he told Al Arabiya. "They pass by to say hello or they wave at me from afar as they pass by the place."

    Another young man, Haidar, has opened a brand new restaurant. Its name? “Russia,” and he is currently working to find a chef who can cater to the tastes of his favorite patrons.

    "I’ve loved Russia and Russians since my childhood, and now is the time to express my love for them through my restaurant," he said. "The Russians have revived both the nightlife and daytime businesses."

    While the Russian soldiers are certainly good for business, some shops are even offering troops drinks at half the price – or no price at all.

    "Since then, I swore to myself I would never let a Russian customer pay," Tarek Shaabo, owner of the Moscow Café, said of Russia’s veto of UN resolutions on Syria’s war. "They came to defend us. The least I can do is host them in my small café."

    "Tell Abu Ali Putin he’s got a place to stay in Latakia," Shaabo said. "Moscow Café is his home."

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