Russian President Vladimir Putin has pledged to continue providing military support to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad’s government.
“We support the government of Syria in its effort to counter terrorist aggression,” the Wall Street Journal quoted Putin as saying at a security summit in Dushanbe, the capital of the Central Asian republic of Tajikistan. “We provide and will continue to provide military assistance. We call on other countries to join with us.”
Putin’s remarks came after US officials said over the weekend Russia had deployed half a dozen tanks at an airfield outside the Syrian port city of Latakia, a move believed to be a prelude to Moscow’s taking a direct combat role in the country.
The Russian leader said Russia had to support Syria. Otherwise, “the situation in that country would be much worse than in Libya, and the flow of refugees would be greater”.
Moscow last year took in 1,435 refugees from Syria, the Journal said, citing data from Russia’s Federal Migration Service.
Also on Tuesday, US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke by telephone with his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, over the conflict in Syria, Reuters reported.
State Department spokesman John Kirby did not offer details of the call between Kerry and Lavrov, but Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Lavrov had stressed the need to create a united front to battle terrorist groups in Syria.
The ministry said in a statement on its website that Kerry and Lavrov also discussed the Ukraine crisis and steps to ease tension on the Korean peninsula, without providing further detail.
Earlier, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said dialogue between Moscow and Washington on solving the Syria crisis was indispensable.
Peskov made the comments when asked whether talks on Syria were possible between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama.
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