YPG, Russia meeting ‘evaluated steps to take’ after ISIL: Russian defense ministry

YPG, Russia meeting ‘evaluated steps to take’ after ISIL: Russian defense ministry

Nerdun Hacıoğlu – MOSCOW
YPG, Russia meeting ‘evaluated steps to take’ after ISIL: Russian defense ministry

Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Dec. 4 that a meeting held a day earlier by a Russian military delegation and officials of the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria’s Deir Ezzor province had “evaluated the steps to be taken” after the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is ousted from the region. 

It was the first statement released by Russia regarding the Dec. 3 meeting. The Defense Ministry said among the delegation was the Russian General Yevgeny Poplavsky, one of the commanders of the Khmeimim Air Base, an airbase currently operated by Russia in the Syrian city of Latakia.

Another statement released by the YPG and issued on the ANHA news agency a day earlier, however, had named the Russian general whose photo where he is attending the meeting was shared with the public as Alex Kim. 

The ANHA news agency had also shared YPG spokesman Nuri Mahmoud’s statements issued following the meeting. 

“The eastern countryside of the city [Deiz Ezzor] has been fully liberated from ISIL ... with the international coalition and Russia’s support,” Mahmoud said in his statement, acknowledging receiving direct support from Moscow.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Dec. 4 that its planes made hundreds of sorties in support of Kurdish and local militias in eastern Syria, predicting that the whole area will soon be free of jihadist fighters.

“Russian aviation carried out 672 sorties and bombed over 1,450 targets in the interests of supporting the offensive by the militias of eastern Euphrates tribes and Kurdish militias,” the ministry said in a statement.

The YPG forms the bulk of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a militant group that ousted ISIL from swathes of northern and eastern Syria, with help from the U.S.-led coalition.     

The area east of the Euphrates River has for months been the area of operations by the SDF. Russia has meanwhile been helping regime forces battle ISIL jihadists west of the Euphrates.

In September Russia accused the SDF of targeting Syrian regime forces with artillery fire and even threatened to retaliate if the strikes repeat.

The SDF in turn accused Moscow of striking its forces several times during the drive, which made the announcement by both Moscow and the YPG all the more surprising.

“All activities of the armed militias to the east of the Euphrates are coordinated by the staff of Russian contingent in Syria in Hmeimim,” Gen. Poplavsky was quoted as saying in the Russian defense ministry statement.

Poplavsky said Russia’s military advisors are on the ground working with the militias.

“In the coming days all Syrian territory east of the Euphrates will be completely liberated from terrorists,” he said.