Russia sends 12 more warplanes to Syria despite announcing military withdrawal

Moscow reportedly sends a dozen Su-25 fighter planes to aid ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, days after Russian military said it would decrease its deployment 

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The Independent Online

Satellite imagery of Russian cargo ships reportedly transporting military equipment to the conflict in Syria has emerged, despite an announcement from the Russian army’s chief of staff that Moscow was beginning to scale down its military presence in the country. 

Valery Gerasimov said in a statement last week that Russia’s only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, and several other warships were to return to Murmansk after a November deployment to the Syrian port of Tartous.

The increase in firepower was instrumental in helping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad regain control of Aleppo, which was captured from rebel forces last month.

However, satellite images captured from the Mediterranean and analysed by security sources show that Russia has moved more equipment -  including a dozen Su-25 fighter planes - to the regime-controlled city of Latakia since last Friday’s announcement. 

Pro-regime news outlet al-Masdar reported that the jets will be used in campaigns on rebel-held Idlib province, which neighbours Aleppo.  

The UK-based monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that at least 30 air strikes had been carried out in the area in the last few days, despite the current ceasefire deal.  

The 30 December cessation of hostilities between Syrian opposition groups and the Syrian government has been plagued by accusations of violations by both sides, and disagreement over whether certain rebel factions are included in the truce. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin previously said Russia had agreed to reduce its military deployment in Syria under the terms of the deal. 

Peace talks are due to go ahead on January 23 in the Kazakh capital of Almaty, although it remains unclear whether any direct representatives of the Syrian opposition will be present. 

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