Russia’s military force in Syria is believed to have expanded to about 4,000 personnel, roughly double the number estimated at the end of September when Moscow began air strikes against Islamic State and groups opposed to the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
Russian troops are also now operating from more bases in the strife-torn nation, Reuters reported, citing unidentified US security officials.
The Russians have suffered combat casualties, including deaths, though the exact number is not known, the US officials were quoted as saying.
Moscow has said there are no Russian troops in combat roles in Syria, though it has said there are trainers and advisers working alongside the Syrian military and also forces guarding Russia’s bases in western Syria.
Washington has strongly criticized President Vladimir Putin’s military intervention in Syria’s civil war.
A US defense official told Reuters that Russian aircraft are now operating out of four bases in Syria, but multiple rocket launcher crews and long-range artillery batteries are deployed outside the facilities.
“They have a lot of people outside the wire,” he said.
The main Russian base is at the Bassel al-Assad International Airport near the port city of Latakia.
All of Moscow’s fixed-wing aircraft are said to be flying from there in support of ground offensives by the Syrian army and foreign Shiite militias.
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