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Russian forces 'take over Manbij base' abandoned by US Open in fullscreen

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Russian forces 'take over Manbij base' abandoned by US

Russian army vehicle pictured west of Manbij in January 2019. [Getty]

Date of publication: 15 October, 2019

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Videos posted on social media showed what appeared to be a member of a Russian private military company in the abandoned US base in Manbij.

Russian forces were seen in a US base in Manbij just hours after Washington announced a full American withdrawal from the area on Tuesday.

Syrian regime forces took "full control" of the city of Manbij earlier on Tuesday, as US forces withdrew from Kurdish-controlled regions in northeast Syria.

Russian journalists traveling with the troops filmed footage that showed what appeared to be an abandoned outpost where US forces had been stationed in Manbij, a flashpoint town west of the Euphrates River that Turkey has long wanted to wrest from the Kurds.

Syrian regime troops waved flags in the streets.

Videos posted on social media showed what appeared to be a member of a Russian private military company in the abandoned US base.

A Times reporter identified the man as Oleg Blokhin, a Russian war correspondent known to be following the Wagner Group, a private military firm that has supported Syrian military operations.

Read more: Syria's north is up for grabs as Turkey offensive begins

An SDF official told Business Insider that the US had ceded control of their Manbij garrison to mercenaries from the Wagner Group after withdrawing.

Russian military patrols

Russian military forces are patrolling the contact line between Syrian and Turkish forces in northern Syria, filling the void left by the United States after it earlier announced a full withdrawal from the area.

The move came after Kurdish groups had struck a deal with Syrian regime forces to fend off the Turkish invasion, now in its seventh day.

Outside Manbij, Russian troops patrolled front lines between Turkish and Syrian army positions to keep them apart, Russia's defence ministry said.

"No one is interested" in fighting between Syrian government troops and Turkish forces, Moscow's envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentyev told Russian state news agencies. Russia "is not going to allow it," he said.

Kurdish leaders and representatives of the Syrian regime held talks at a Russian military base last week, Lavrentyev said, adding that he was unaware of any results.

Kelly Craft, the US ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters Washington is "deeply concerned" that Russian troops are patrolling between the two sides.

Russia has been a staunch ally of Assad for decades and entered the Syrian conflict in 2015, providing air cover that eventually turned the tide of the war in his favour.

The Russian military has shipped weapons to Damascus, trained thousands of troops and put its advisers in key Syrian military units.

Several hundred Russian contractors have also reportedly fought alongside Syrian regime troops.

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