RUSSIA is building an AIR BASE in Syria where it can station fighter pilots and troops to battle Islamic State (Isis) in a desperate bid to prop up the regime of Bashar al-Assad, it emerged today
The Russian president has thrown his full support behind the brutal despot, who is one of his key allies, and who George Osborne this week described as “evil”.
Now US defence officials have revealed that the Russian military has transported enough pre-fabricated military buildings to war-torn Syria to house 1,000 troops.
Engineers have also constructed a new air traffic control tower at an airfield near the port city of Latakia, providing the latest evidence that Russian pilots are preparing to carry out sorties in the country.
The move will increase unease over Putin’s openly expansionist policies and puts Russia on a collision course with Britain and America once more.
David Cameron and Barack Obama have both insisted that any resolution to the ongoing civil war in Syria would ultimately have to include the end of the Assad regime.
John Kerry, Secretary of State, telephoned his Russian counterpart to express US concerns about the latest developments.
A spokesman for the US State Department said: “The secretary made clear that if such reports were accurate, these actions could further escalate the conflict, lead to greater loss of innocent life, increase refugee flows and risk confrontation with the anti-Isil coalition operating in Syria.
He said that his country’s military was giving the Syrian government “quite serious help” but denied that that involved boots on the ground.
However, videos have emerged which appear to show Russian-speaking troops and the country’s fighter jets operating deep within Syria.
Syrian state television also showed images of an advanced Russian-built armoured personnel carrier in combat.
A US defence source said: “If they’re moving people in to help the Syrian government fight their own fight, that’s one thing. But if they’re moving in ground forces and dropping bombs on populated areas, that’s an entirely different matter.”
The terrorist group’s fighters have conquered large swathes of the country and are one of the key reasons why so many refugees are now fleeing to Europe.
However, Russian meddling is likely to be met with extreme suspicion by western governments following its annexation of Crimea last year.
Putin’s troops are already fighting alongside separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine, who have been blamed for a series of atrocities including the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17.