Is the Russian Army Fighting in Syria? Western Journalism taken to Task


September 6th, 2015

By: Valentin Domogadsky for PolitRussia – 

Translated for Fort Russ by Soviet Bear – 

“Arab spring” with all long-lasting consequences has become a
cemetery not just for the military-political experts and analysts, but also for
so-called “honest Western journalism.” Despite the fact that the very
fact of its existence was put under serious doubt in the course of
Soviet-American and Palestinian-Israeli conflicts, the belief in its existence
proved to be extremely tenacious. Including in our country, which still cannot
get rid of the remnants of the Russia’s 1990’s national idea of bowing before
“white man from the West”.

Photo: / “Nikolai Phylchenkov” with “unknown cargo” on deck.

Photo: / And a little closerПосмотреть полностью:

The war in Syria in which Russia is actively
involved (logistically, advisory and politically) raises the problem of
adequate perception of information. It is unlikely that we will be mistaken if
we assume that for most the Russians who are concerned about politics this
conflict is a logical continuation of the global Russian-American
confrontation, the beginning of which can be considered an operation of forcing
Georgia to peace. Therefore, any information regarding the failure of the
Russian party in Syria faces very painful reaction of the Russian public.

Any local victories and successes of Moscow in
the framework of the Russian-American confrontation — which, to our infinite
surprise many interpret solely as “failures” is invariably accompanied by the
activation of local and Western “unbiased” journalism. Servants of the pen and
keyboard take the old notes of “cold war” from the bottom of their
chests and begin to write. In particular, the adaptation of slightly outdated
propaganda postulates led to a very exciting quest called: “Find a Russian
soldier!” In combination with the legendary quiz called: “Predict the Russian
aggression” the effect is just fantastic. 

So, the American publisher – “The Daily
Beast” in its fresh material from the first lines adds the emphasis: “It seems that games in Ukraine is not
enough for Moscow, because last month there was a whole stream of messages
about the build-up of Russian military presence in Syria.”
Well, then
the author begins to “expose”.

In confirmation of the thesis of strengthening
of the Russian military presence in Syria Michael Weiss cites a number of
arguments. In particular, refers to the “Bosphorus Naval News”, which
were published on August 22, pictures of Russian ship “Nikolai
Filchenkov” passing the Bosphorus strait with military cargo on the deck. [see photos above]

The photos are really very exciting, but the
reaction of the writer is somewhat surprising. Deliveries of Russian military
equipment to the Syrian government, as well as providing logistical support,
held in the framework of the contracts signed even before the civil war (2007-2010).
It should also be noted that Russia agreed with the “international community” and
suspended fulfillment of arms contracts with Syria, but after the decision of
the EU concerning the non-renewal of the embargo on arms supplies to the
so-called “Syrian opposition” the appropriateness of this gesture was
multiplied by zero.

Here it is necessary to evaluate the comedy of
the story-line. Western and Arab journalists in a fit of righteous anger denounce
Russia for providing military-technical assistance to an elected and absolutely
legitimate government of Syria. Anti-Russian revelations are being presented
under the sauce of “illegality” of such actions. But the whole point is that
these journalists are citizens of countries that officially allocate tens of
millions of dollars for training and arming “moderate opposition”
units, created with the sole purpose to overthrow Bashar al-Assad. But the most
comical is that they are confident that truth is on their side.

But let’s move on to the next argument of the
writer: “24 June Oryx Blog which monitors military developments in the Middle
East and North Africa, found that at least one BTR-82A has been spotted off the
coast in Latakia province, where the family of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad
is from.” 

The news is interesting because this model entered service within the
Russian army as recently as 2013 (came off the assembly line in 2011), we are
talking about deliveries under new contracts signed after the beginning of
military conflict. Let’s give the floor to the experts:

“The BTR-82 is different from the BTR-80,
30-mm cannon is mounted instead of the 14.5 KPVT machine gun which was already
tested on the BTR-80A. But now the gun and twin machine gun are stabilized in
two planes, which allowed to fire on the move. The machine is equipped with the
TKN-4GA sight, it is able work at night, equipped with hidden laser
illuminator. The armor of the machine is coated with a special ballistic
material on the inside, and the bottom has a new energy-absorbing design with
two-levels of defense and special seat suspension. The survivability of a
modernized BTR increased by 20 percent.”

Judging by the fact that the Syrian government
forces armored park is being replenished even with the most recent developments
of the Russian defense industry, Moscow came thoroughly to the issue of
re-equipment of the Syrian army. At least, the term “Syrian Express”
among those interested in the fate of the Middle East is no less popular than
legendary Donbass “Voentorg”.

But, perhaps, an American journalist alludes
to the fact that supplies of Russian armored personnel carriers BTR-82A are
contrary to international law? Let’s give the floor to the Deputy Head of the
Russian Security Council Yevgeny Lukyanov:

has concluded an agreement with Syria on the supply of weapons, but only within
the framework of conventional arms, which is not subject to UN sanctions.
Moscow refrains from implementing agreements on anti-aircraft missile systems S-300 and Yak-130

Let’s continue quoting The Daily Beast: “But the most curious is the information that the
official TV channel of the National defense forces have accidentally revealed
in one of its news from the front in Latakia. The channel showed an armored
personnel carrier in battle, but the Russian speech can be clearly heard in the
report. These are the orders to the crew of the BTR-82A”.

Further, the author gives not the correct
translation. In the second minute quite clearly audible:

2: 03: “Go!”.

02:06: “Throw!”

02:10 “one more time! Once again!”

02:30: “Peacock, peacock, (callsign) we
moving out.”

Given the poor quality of the video it is not
possible to accurately determine who gives and who takes the orders, but
considering that the video recorded the performance of the BTR-82A, with which the
Syrian military is not really acquainted, one can assume that the voice in the
video is addressed to the Russian-speaking crew of the armored vehicle. Allegedly
the “drills in the field” were recorded in the video. The
participation of Russian specialists in such events should not come as a
surprise: for the Russian defense industry Syria is the most attractive testing
ground. Remarkably, based on the episode from the Russian speech during the
BTR-82A performance, the writer speaks of the monumental: “This is
convincing proof that the Russians are in the Syrian army.”

Next, Michael Weiss demonstrates the skill of
a competent investigative journalism: “In May the commander of the elite
airborne forces of Russia Colonel-General Vladimir Shamanov said that he would
gladly have sent “his paratroopers, if there was such task and the decision
of the Russian leadership”.

Leaving aside the fact that this statement was
made in August instead of May, and there was no joy in direct speech of comrade
Shamanov, quote from the original Russian source:

“Airborne troops of the Russian
Federation are ready to help Syria to fight with terrorists, if such a task is
put by the Russian leadership. This was announced on 4 August, the journalists,
by the commander of the airborne troops, Colonel-General Vladimir Shamanov:
“we will comply with the decisions taken by the leadership of the country,
if the task is given – we will fulfill it” – said Shamanov, answering the
question of the Syrian journalist about the readiness of the airborne troops to
assist the government of the middle Eastern country in the fight against

This statement caused a lot of noise at the
time, and it’s not even the fact that it is actively used by Western
journalists. This is their livelihood. I’m astonished with the reaction of our
“armchair generals”, which in the provision of international
assistance to the brotherly people of Syria, ready to gratuitously send Russian
tanks with Russian crews to Damascus for free. In any quantity. It is difficult
to explain the logic of such proposals, but can hardly be mistaken if we assume
that it is just a manifestation of nostalgia for Soviet policy in Asia and
Africa – noble, but senseless and merciless.

With specific regard to the statements by
Vladimir Shamanov, only Western journalists or the Russian bloggers can search
for hidden clues. There was a question from a journalist — was the answer from
the military man. If their will be the order – we will obey. And whether there
will be an order or not – you should ask the political leadership of the
country not the commander of airborne forces. The leadership, however, unlikely
to share their thoughts on this, but in this case we can see only speculators,
which are online telling your readers about the life of each tower of the

However, it is worth noting that Michael Weiss
looks very presentable compared to his colleagues. Unlike the vast majority of
foreign journalists who have dedicated themselves to the search for the Russian
army outside Russia, Michael appeals to a specific factual basis, in his
“investigation” he is quite consistent, and in general it felt that
the writers understands what he wrote. There is no doubt that this material will
find its audience in the West.

Separately it is necessary to mention the
source of the September hysteria on the subject of the Russian military in
Syria. On August 31 Israeli news website Ynetnews in the material under the
heading “Russian jets in Syrian skies” informed that on the territories
near Damascus controlled by Bashar al-Assad a striking squadron with Russian
pilots is being formed. The gossip could be ignored, if not epic PostScript
that in the near future about 1 thousand Russian soldiers will be deployed in
Syria. According to the laws of information warfare this information was
provided to the Israelis by the “sources in diplomatic circles”

even a cursory view of the news (2012-2015) on the increase of Russian military
presence in Syria makes us to pay attention to the primitive presentation of
information. The news of another movement of Russians to aid of Bashar al-Assad
has been appearing consistently on the information resources of average
attendance. The information comes in the grasping hands of journalists solely
from “trusted sources in the government / intelligence / diplomatic
circles”. The news are usually accompanied by thematic photo, which,
according to the writers, must demonstrate the Russian presence in Syria.
Israeli source Ynetnews, for example, attached a photo of the Russian MiG-21
“stuck” to the aircraft-refueling. It looks really epic.

However, the resonance of another Israeli
throw no the fan in its kind, is not unique. In 2012, the news of all the
world’s media outlets were full of loud headlines about the Russian special
forces, who arrived in the Syrian port of Tartus in the holds of the tanker (!)
“Iman”. The source of the sensation was field paper of some factions
of the Syrian opposition. Further information from “a reliable
source” has migrated to the Israeli website “DEBKAfile”, whence
they appeared in news feed “Al Arabiya”. The endpoint of this rumor
turned out to be the Qatari “Al Jazeera”.

Returning to the recent surge of increasing
Russian military presence in Syria, we are obliged to quote the U.S. state
Department spokesman Mark Toner:

“We have seen various reports in the press that
it is possible that Russia sends military aircraft to Syria. I can only say
that we are closely monitoring the situation. We study it. We are in contact
with our partners in the region, trying to get more information. We are not
sure for what purpose it is done and if it’s done at all. But, of course, we do
express our concern about any attempt to support the Assad regime with military
men, aircraft, any supplies or funding, because we
believe that it is destabilizing and counterproductive step”.

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