Kremlin says open to any Syrian request to send troops
MOSCOW - Agence France-Presse
AP PhotoMoscow said on Sept.18 it would consider any request from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to send troops, as Washington frets over an alleged Russian military buildup in the war-torn country.
"If there is any request then it would naturally be discussed and evaluated through bilateral contacts and dialogue," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying by Russian news agency RIA Novosti.
"But it is difficult to talk about this hypothetically."
The United States says that Russia -- one of Assad's last remaining allies -- has covertly deployed troops, artillery units and tanks to Syria.
Moscow says it is sending arms to Syria under existing contracts but denies bolstering its forces in the country.
Putin has provided vital support to Assad throughout a popular uprising against his regime and as the conflict has metastasised into a brutal civil war that has killed 240,000 people and displaced four million.
US officials have expressed fears Russia may strike Western-backed rebel groups battling Assad and ultimately risk a confrontation with forces fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Moscow has been pushing for a broader coalition of forces to take on ISIL, but key Western and regional players have ruled out fighting alongside Assad.
Russian news website Gazeta.ru reported on Sept.18 that some Russian soldiers were disputing possible orders to be sent to Syria.
The outlet quoted a soldier named Alexei as saying that troops had been deployed to a southern Russian port city without being told where they would be shipped to and were expecting to be deployed to Syria on only a verbal order.
Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the Kremlin has no knowledge of complaints by soldiers to its human rights council.