Lebanese officials have confirmed evidence, which first came via social media posts, of Russia’s newly amplified military presence in Syria.
Ruslan Leviev, the anti-establishment journalist who quashed rumors that Russia accidentally reported its combat deaths in Ukraine, recently gathered the clues of deployment to Syria. He found a soldier’s wife posting to a women’s online forum about her husband traveling to the country.
Leviev then managed to track down the woman’s husband, a Russian army serviceman, as well as his social media contacts who are also in the military. A number of them had recently posted statuses about going “off to Syria,” as well as photographs that appeared to be on military installations in the country.
He acknowledged that while using these photos to claim that Russians are not just maintaining Russian military assets in Syria but actively fighting “is quite a stretch,” it’s not impossible. (RELATED: Iran, Greece Gladly Help Russia Fly Troops To Syria)
Wednesday saw new revelations from Lebanese officials, who confirmed to Reuters that Russian forces are participating in combat, and preparing a sizeable airbase to support their fight in support of President Bashar Assad.
Russia and Iran are Assad’s closest international allies, as he struggles to retain of the small slice of Syria that he still controls. U.S. efforts in Syria are often criticized for unsuccessfully trying to target both Assad and terrorists like the Islamic State. But Russia exclusively focuses on backing Assad — though it has contributed virtually nothing to the fight against Islamic State, which has a “province” in Russian territory. (RELATED: Syrian Regime Bombing Kills 100 Civilians In Suburban Market)
U.S.-Russian disputes over Syria also extend to resolving the civil war that has ravaged the country for over four years. Russia insists that Assad must be included in peace negotiations, a stance which the U.S. has deplored in light of Assad’s war crimes against civilians. In a recent op-ed for the independent Russian news site Ekho Moskvy, U.S. embassy spokesman William Stevens wrote that “the support Assad gets from his biggest sponsors allows him to evade resolving the conflict by peaceful means.”
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