85% of Russian commanders have Syria combat experience, boasts Putin
The Russian leader said that the experience gained in Syria, where Russia has backed Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in crushing a popular uprising, is being used to train Russian troops.
"All the commanders of all-arms, Air Force and Air Defense Armies, over 85% of the commanders of military formations and regiments have gained combat experience in the Syrian Arab Republic and are now relying on it in the course of manoeuvres, command and staff drills and exercises and in training the personnel of military units and formations," Putin said during a defence meeting in Sochi, according to TASS news agency.
Russia intervened in Syria's war in 2015, allowing the Assad regime to reverse early gains made by rebel groups but leading to the deaths of tens thousands of civilians and the mass displacement of Syrians.
Since 2015, Kremlin-backed media outlets have boasted of the effectiveness of the country's weaponry in the war and Moscow’s competition with the US in the region.
Russia has dismissed the well-documented human rights abuses and atrocities committed by the Assad regime and its allies, including Moscow forces.
A 198-page report published last month by Russian civil society groups detailed chilling first-hand accounts of life inside besieged areas, widespread use of torture, chemical gas attacks, and the Assad regime's barrel bombing of opposition areas.
"Russians know very little about Bashar Al-Assad's internal policies, the root causes of the conflict, and the massive human rights violations in Syria," the report's authors told The New Arab.
Russia has defended its role in Syria and dismissed accusations of war crimes, insisting that it is helping the regime to combat terrorism.
Syria's war has killed more than 500,000 people and displaced millions at home and abroad since starting in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests. The vast majority of dead and displaced have come following regime bombing and assaults on civilian areas.