Syrian barrel bomb specialists working alongside Russians to assist Ukraine invasion, says reports
The crude, deadly weapons - fashioned out of oil barrels, fuel tanks or gas cylinders and packed with explosives, fuel and metal fragments - were used by the Syrian regime to destroy large swathes of opposition-held territory. Dropped from helicopters and planes, the weapons have likely killed thousands of civilians.
More than 50 specialists, with experience in making and delivering the crude explosives, have been in Russia for several weeks working alongside officials from Putin’s forces, according to The Guardian.
One European official said an armoury of ground-to-air missiles in Ukraine, not available to the anti-Assad opposition, is "probably why we haven't seen [the weapons] cross the border", according to the Guardian.
"We know the capacity is there, but if they use it, they lose; we will know who's done it, and they will likely be killed anyway," the unnamed official said, as reported by the British newspaper.
Amnesty International documented the use of thousands of barrel bombs in Syria, including around 6,800 dropped on Daraya, just outside Damascus, between January 2014 to February 2016 alone.
The Assad regime has used deadly chemicals against opposition areas, such as the nerve agent sarin and chlorine.
This campaign of attrition resulted in hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries, triggering a mass exodus from opposition areas.
"It is absolutely outrageous - though not surprising - that the Syrian government has continued to bombard and starve its own civilians," said Middle East and North Africa deputy director for Amnesty, Magdalena Mughrabi, in 2016 after a video emerged of the terror inflicted on civilians in Daraya by barrel bombs.
Putin is a close ally of the Assad and through the deployment of fighters and weapons in Syria, Russia has helped turn the tide of the war against the opposition.