Russian soldiers fighting in Idlib campaign: Syria opposition

Russian soldiers fighting on front lines in Idlib campaign: Syrian rebels
2 min read
18 July, 2019
Russian troops are now engaged in the battle with Syrian rebels in Idlib province according to opposition sources.
Russian soldiers are now reportedly involved in the regime offensive in Idlib [Getty]

Russian troops are now operating on the frontlines of the Syrian regime's campaign against rebels in Idlib province, opposition figures told Reuters on Thursday.

"These special Russian forces are now present in the battlefield. The Russians are intervening directly now," Captain Naji Mustafa, spokesman for the Turkey-backed National Liberation Front (NLA), told Reuters.

Russian troops have been reportedly working behind the scenes during the Idlib campaign, which began in April, directing operations and artillery.

The report that Russian fighters are now engaged in the battle with rebels on the frontlines in northwest Syria is perhaps a sign that Moscow has run out of patience with Damascus and has little faith in the regime's ability to retake Idlib.

Mustafa said Russian troops took part in the battle last week to retake the Humaymat hills in Hama province.

"When (Syrian President Bashar) al-Assad's forces failed to advance, Russia then intervened directly... after bombing the area with more than 200 sorties," Mustafa said.

Russia intervened in the Syria war in September 2015, after Bashar al-Assad's forces suffered a series of defeats to rebels putting the regime in danger of collapsing.

The Russian-led air campaign has helped the regime reclaim key opposition areas in Syria, including eastern Ghouta outside Damascus, Daraa in the south, and East Aleppo.

Rebels are now confined to the northwestern regions of Syria, but a Russian-backed regime offensive on Idlib and Hama provinces has been viewed as a failure.

"Russia did not only fail but has been exposed to defeat," Mustafa said.

After some defeats for rebels early on in the campaign, Turkey reportedly sent anti-tank missiles to rebel forces in Idlib stalling the offensive.

"The Syrian army found itself in a crisis and were forced to ask for Russian troops on the battlefield," Jamil al-Saleh, the head of Jaish al Izza rebel group, told Reuters.

The failure of the campaign has widely been viewed as being down to the ineffectiveness of the Russian-backed Tiger Forces and the unwillingness of Tehran-backed militias to take part in the fighting.

They are now beginning to make their way to the Idlib frontlines which could prove a major boost for the Russian-led campaign.

"The Iranians have brought reinforcements and are now fighting on several fronts," said Mohammad Rashid, a spokesperson for Jaish al-Nasr rebel group said.

The Russia-led regime offensive on Idlib has killed hundreds of civilians and forced 300,000 from their home.