Russia sends soldiers, engineers to Qamishli near Turkish border
Uğur Ergan – ANKARARussia has sent soldiers and engineers to the international airport in Syria’s Qamishli, across the border from Turkey’s Nusaybin, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has reported.
In a statement quoting local activists, SOHR said Russian soldiers and engineers were dispatched to the international airport in Qamishli in order to expand the facility and enable the landing of Russian fighter jets and cargo planes. The airport would serve to enhance Russia’s defenses, the SOHR claimed.
Meanwhile, the Local Coordination Committee (LCC) reported that some 100 Russian soldiers of different ranks arrived at the airport in Qamishli on Jan. 18 with a Syrian military plane.
According to the LCC’s statement, Russian soldiers were brought to Regiment 154 base in the south of Qamishli, which is equipped with artillery batteries, radars and anti-aircraft weapons, and serves to defend the airport.
Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported the Russian soldiers would be deployed to areas of Qamishli that are under the control of the Syrian regime, and not the Democratic Union Party (PYD).
Turkish intelligence sources have confirmed to daily Hürriyet that Russian forces arrived at Qamishli, stating Turkey’s radars had noticed the plane carrying the soldiers.
The deployment is not a first, sources said, adding that Russian forces were previously spotted in parts of Qamishli that are controlled by the regime. The number of soldiers sent to the area remains unclear, the sources explained.
The reports were denied by Kurdish sources speaking to daily Hürriyet, however, which claimed all communications between Russia and the PYD were being conducted in Moscow.
Meanwhile, Education Minister Nabi Avcı said it was true that Russian troops were acting together with Syrian regime forces in areas that were controlled by Assad.
“[The report of] some Russian military presence in Qamishli together with [Syrian] regime forces is true,” said Avcı, according to state-run Anadolu Agency. “In Qamishli, regime forces, Russian soldiers and the PYD [Democratic Union Party] act together.”
Turkish Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz said there were also contrary claims regarding the deployment of Russian soldiers at Qamishli, adding that none of these claims would change anything.
“This will not change anything. One needs to be a part of an international coalition. I believed one cannot achieve success by stepping out of the coalition. If a fight against terrorism is needed, then international cooperation is needed,” Yılmaz was quoted as saying by Anadolu Agency.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Tuğrul Türkeş said, “No matter what how many Russian troops are stationed at the border of Qamishli, they cannot be a threat to Turkey, which is a member of NATO.”