Russia confirms providing military aid to Syria

Published September 9th, 2015 - 01:44 GMT

Russia confirmed Wednesday it has military advisers in Syria after Russian troops were recently seen in locations throughout the war-ravaged country.

The United States has accused Russia of escalating the Syrian conflict. Russia said their military presence in Syria is part of a longstanding agreement to provide military aid.

"Russian military specialists help Syrians master Russian hardware, and we can't understand the anti-Russian hysteria about this," Maria V. Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry, told The New York Times.

Zakharova added that Russia was never secretive about its cooperation with Syria on military technology and that Russia has always done so "in accordance with existing contracts and in full accordance with international law."

"We have been supplying Syria with arms and military equipment for a long time," she said. "If we need to take further measures to intensify counterterrorism efforts, these issues will no doubt be examined further, but solely on the basis of international law and the Russian legislation."

Media outlets have shown Russian soldiers in locations throughout Syria recently, escalating tensions between Washington and Moscow.

More than 200,000 people have died and more than 4 million have been displaced by the Syrian civil war, which sparked an exodus that has created a migrant crisis in Europe where governments are attempting to deal with the thousands of migrants fleeing war and seeking asylum.

The United States asked Bulgaria and Greece on Tuesday to deny Russian flights toward Syria from flying over their airspace. Bulgaria agreed to the request but Greece has not publicly responded.

Bulgaria said Wednesday that it may allow Russian flights through their airspace only if the Russian planes could be inspected at a Bulgarian airfield.

By Andrew V. Pestano

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