63,000 Russian Troops, Including 90 Percent of Its Combat Pilots, Have Rotated Through Syria Since 2015

The Russian military has revealed that over 63,000 troops from its armed forces have fought in Syria since Moscow entered the conflict in 2015, involvement that has turned the tide of the war in the regime’s favour.

The deployment has included some 434 generals over the past three years, and about 90 percent of Russian combat pilots have flown in Syria. The Russian military has also used the conflict to test some of its most advanced weapons, including its latest jets and cruise missiles.

The figures have been revealed after US National Security Adviser John Bolton yesterday stated that Russia was “stuck” in Syria, alleging that Russian President Vladimir Putin told the Trump administration that Moscow could not bring about the withdrawal of Iranian forces from Syria.

“And I don’t think they [Russia] want to be stuck there. I think their frenetic diplomatic activity in Europe indicates that they’d like to find somebody else, for example, to bear the cost of reconstructing Syria – which they may or may not succeed in doing,” he told Reuters.

Bolton added that Putin, who met US President Donald Trump in Helsinki on 16 July, also “told us that his interest and Iran’s were not exactly the same. So we’re obviously going to talk to him about what role they can play.”

Bolton is scheduled to meet his Russian counterpart, Nikolai Patrushev, in Geneva later today, and announced yesterday that he would discuss with Moscow the possibility of a “joint effort” to pull Iranian forces out of Syria.

“Our interests in Syria are to finish the destruction of the ISIS [Daesh] territorial caliphate and deal with the continuing threat of ISIS terrorism and to worry about the presence of Iranian militias and regular forces,” the US official concluded.

As Syrians in the north-eastern province of Idlib are bracing for an imminent offensive by the Assad regime, supported by Moscow, when asked how the US might respond should there be a chemical or biological attack on Idlib, Bolton said only: “strongly”.

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