Assad says Russia presence keeps 'balance' in Syria
Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad has claimed that Russia's military presence in the country provides a useful counter-weight to Western powers who are involved in the continued campaign against the Islamic State group.
Assad mentioned the influence of Russia's two main bases in Syria - a naval base in Tartous and airbase in Latakia - as providing a balance to Western influence in the country, during an interview with a Russian defence ministry-affiliated newspaper.
"This global military balance needs Russia's role... this needs (military) bases... we benefit from this," Assad said, according to Reuters.
Assad also admitted to the critical role Moscow played in turning back a "dangerous situation" after rebels captured Idlib province in 2015 and advanced on other fronts.The interview marked the fifth anniversary of Russia's intervention in the Syria war, which analysts believe played a key role in the survival of the Assad regime.
Russia entered the Syrian war on 30 September 2015, providing air support, mercenaries, air defences, training and military advice which have been critical to the regime's re-capture on most urban centres.
Russian airstrikes has led to the deaths of injuries of thousands of Syrian civilians, according to monitor Airwars, and been accused of targeting civilian infrastructure such as hospitals and civil defence teams.