DAMASCUS – Russia is rapidly accelerating its grouping of forces in Syria with the use of sea and air routes in anticipation of talks between Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan , which are being held today, March 5th, in Moscow as FRN has reported. The strengthening of the Russian military presence in the Arab Republic amid escalation in its northwestern region is reported by many media outlets, and the Russian Ministry of Defense also confirms the information.
As a result of intense fighting in Syrian Idlib, the threat of a direct clash between the Turkish and Russian military, operating in the immediate vicinity of the front line, remains. For several weeks now, Turkish special forces have been taking part in battles in separate directions in the eastern and southern parts of Idlib province.
Reuters analyzed data from services that track aircraft flights and ship movements in the Bosphorus Strait of Turkey. According to them, Russia began to increase air and sea supplies to Syria on February 28, a day after 36 Turkish soldiers were killed as a result of a Syrian air force strike on the southern section of the Idlib front.
Earlier assumptions were such that Turkey could even close the Black Sea straits for Russian ships and prohibit Russian airspace forces from using Turkish airspace. However, the representative of the Turkish Ministry of Defense, on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that Ankara had no plans to block the straits for Russian ships.
According to reports, Russia is strengthening its position in Syria, starting back in October last year, when the US military withdrew from certain areas in northeast Syria after the Turkish Army launched Operation Peace Spring. A few months later, on the first day of spring, the military-political leadership of Turkey launched a new military campaign under the code name “Spring Shield” in the north-west of the SAR. However, this operation of Ankara only formally started on March 1. Active hostilities in Idlib with the participation of the Turkish military have been ongoing since the beginning of the year.
According to data on shipping through the Bosphorus, starting on February 28, Russia sent five warships towards Syria over six days. This is significantly higher than usual – one or two vessels per week. The Russian military announced the sending of the frigates Admiral Grigorovich and Admiral Makarov to Syria with Caliber-NK cruise missiles on board. The dispatch of three more ships of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation was not reported. Among the offshore platforms sent to the shores of Syria is the Orsk large landing ship (BDK), designed to carry 20 tanks, 50 trucks or 45 armored personnel carriers, as well as up to 400 military personnel. Other military vessels include the BDK Novocherkassk and Caesar Kunikov, designed to transport up to 300 troops, tanks, and armored vehicles.
In response, Turkey tightened the escort protocol for Russian ships passing through the Bosphorus. Russian warships passed through the strait, accompanied by three Turkish patrol boats and a helicopter. Usually ships are accompanied by one vessel of the Turkish coast guard.
Ankara has also strengthened its troop grouping: both directly inside the so-called Idlib de-escalation zone, and on the southern borders of its own territory. According to military sources, at the beginning of March, the Turkish army concentrated in the greater Idlib region (Idlib and Hama provinces, parts of Aleppo and Latakia provinces), west of Aleppo (Atareb-Taftanaz-Neurab district) and south of Idlib province administrative center thousand military – two brigades with a predominant number of units of army special forces. Hundreds of heavy armored vehicles, self-propelled howitzers, multiple launch rocket systems, anti-tank missile systems (ATGMs) and man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) were also deployed to northwestern Syria. In fact, an impressive shock group of Turkish troops with great firepower was created.