Russian forces just occupied a former US air base in Syria

  • Russian have ground forces occupied what was a US air base in northern Syria until US troops withdrew last month.
  • Russian media showed footage of armed military police were shown flying into the base, near the border with Turkey, and of US equipment left behind.
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MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia landed attack helicopters and troops at a sprawling air base in northern Syria vacated by US forces, the Russian Defence Ministry’s Zvezda TV channel said on Friday.

Armed Russian military police were shown in footage aired on Zvezda flying into the Syrian air base in northern Aleppo province near the border with Turkey and fanning out to secure the area.

The move comes after US President Donald Trump abruptly ordered the withdrawal of US troops from parts of Syria last month.

The facility will be used as a center to distribute humanitarian aid for local residents and the military aerodrome is now controlled by Syrian government forces allied with Moscow, Zvezda said.

On Thursday, Zvezda said Russia had set up a helicopter base at an airport in the northeastern Syrian city of Qamishli, a move designed to increase Moscow’s control over events on the ground there.

U.S. military convoy drives the he town of Qamishli, north Syria, by a poster showing Syrain President Bashar Aassad Saturday, Oct. 26. 2019. A U.S. convoy of over a dozen vehicles was spotted driving south of the northeastern city of Qamishli, likely heading to the oil-rich Deir el-Zour area where there are oil fields, or possibly to another base nearby. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, also reported the convoy, saying it arrived earlier from Iraq. (AP Photo/Baderkhan Ahmad)
A US military convoy next to a poster of Syrian President Bashar Assad in the town of Qamishli, in northern Syria, October 26. 2019.
Associated Press

Russia and Turkey are carrying out joint patrols along Syria’s border with Turkey as part of a deal struck between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan.

“We entered the base and took the inner and external perimeter under control,” a senior Russian military police inspector was quoted by Zvezda as saying.

“Now sappers are looking and going through every building to make sure there aren’t some kind of explosive substances left behind or some kind of surprises here for us,” he said.

Zvezda aired footage of US equipment such as medical supplies to treat sunburn that had been left behind as well as a gym and sleeping facilities.

Russia has two permanent military facilities in Syria, an air base in Latakia province used for air strikes against forces opposing President Bashar al-Assad, and a naval facility at Tartus on the Mediterranean.

(Reporting by Tom Balmforth and Maria Kiselyova; editing by Andrew Osborn and Philippa Fletcher)

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