By Andrew Roth,
MOSCOW — President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday defended Russia’s military support for Syria, saying it was necessary to defeat the Islamic State and “terrorist aggression.”
Speaking at a meeting of a regional security bloc led by Russia, Putin rejected Western criticism that his support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had helped provoke a dire humanitarian crisis, and he implied that the West’s support for Syrian rebels had done more to spark Europe’s refugee crisis.
“We support the government of Syria in its opposition to terrorist aggression,” Putin said in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, according to a transcript of his remarks. “We have provided and will provide necessary military and technical support and call on other nations to join us.”
[Russia notes it has military advisers in Syria]
Putin did not specify what weapons Russia has supplied to Assad, but sightings of Russian armor and a small number of Russian troops have been reported this month in the Syrian port city of Latakia, an Assad stronghold. A Pentagon spokesman told reporters Monday that Russia appeared to be establishing a “forward operating base” near Latakia.
Putin on Tuesday also addressed Europe’s growing refugee crisis, accusing foreign powers of providing arms that led to an exodus of Syrians fleeing “radicals.”
“If Russia had not supported Syria, then the situation in the country would be even worse than in Libya, and the stream of refugees would be even greater,” he said.
The war in Syria has killed more than 220,000 since 2011, according to statistics compiled by the United Nations, and more than 4 million Syrians have fled the country. While Putin has focused on the role of the Islamic State, other analysts and monitoring organizations say Assad’s government is responsible for most of the deaths.
Putin called on the West to respect national sovereignty and reject military intervention. He also said that Assad may be willing to enter a power-sharing agreement with the opposition but that the fight against terrorism was the priority.
“We must sideline geopolitical ambitions, refrain from so-called double standards, from the policy of direct or indirect use of separate terrorist groups to achieve opportunistic goals, including the change of governments and regimes that may be disagreeable to whomever,” he said.
[Syria major rift between …Read More
Putin defends deliveries of Russian weapons to Syrian army – Washington Post
By Andrew Roth,