Russian defence minister, Syria's Assad meet in Damascus: agencies

Russian defence minister, Syria's Assad meet in Damascus: agencies

Russian defence minister, Syria's Assad meet in Damascus: agencies

"During the meeting, the two sides discussed the military and military-technical cooperation between [Russia and Syria] in view of the successful operations of Syrian government troops supported by the Russian Air Force aimed at defeating Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL)", the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement. A week ago, Syrian troops broke a almost three-year-old IS siege on government-held parts of the provincial capital. An overnight airstrike hit Syrians who were recently displaced from Deir el-Zour, killing at least eight civilians. Militants affiliated with al-Qaida control Idlib province, near the border with Turkey.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu discussed the Syrian conflict and issues of bilateral military cooperation with Syrian President Bashar Assad, the Russian Defense Ministry said, commenting on the minister's visit to Damascus.

Assad's fortunes have changed dramatically since Russian Federation entered the complex civil war two years ago.

In a matter of weeks, Russia's military built up the base so it could host dozens of Russian jets. The IS militants carried out a counteroffensive but were finally driven out of the city in March 2017.

Assad's greatest victory in the war, now in its seventh year, came in December last year when his troops and allied militia, with Russian air support, gained full control of the city of Aleppo. However, a group of the Russian military aircraft remained at Khmeimim and it continues to lend support to government forces by striking terrorist targets.

Senior Russian military officers as well as special forces were deployed alongside Syrian government troops, providing training, planning offensives and coordinating airstrikes.

Russia's Defense Ministry never said how many troops it has in Syria, but turnout figures in voting from overseas in the September 2016 parliamentary elections indicated Russian military personnel in the Arab nation at the time likely exceeded 4,300.

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