Moscow has staunchly denied a Reuters report claiming that it is constructing a military base in Afrin, northeast Syria, in alliance with the YPG, the Kurdish militia that controls the area.
“There are no plans to establish new Russian bases on the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic,” said a statement from the Russian Defense Ministry.
Instead, Moscow says it will use the location to monitor ceasefire compliance.
“In accordance with the Russian-Turkish agreement signed on December 30, 2016, the Russian Center of Reconciliation carries out round-the-clock ceasefire monitoring. To prevent the violation of the ceasefire, one of the branches of the Center has been set up near Afrin, in a spot bordering the territory held by the Kurdish militias, and that under the command of the Turkish-controlled Free Syrian Army.”
The Reuters report cited YPG spokesman Redur Xelil, who claimed that Moscow would be deploying its own troops and providing military assistance in Afrin, which is a part of Rojava, an autonomous but unrecognized Kurdish province.
“The Russian presence … comes in agreement between (the YPG) and the Russian forces operating in Syria in the framework of cooperation against terrorism and to help train our forces on modern warfare and to build a direct point of contact with Russian forces,” he wrote to the agency on Monday morning.
“The agreement came into force today…It is the first (agreement) of its kind,” said Xelil, whose statement was later posted on an official YPG website.
The United States, which like Russia has supported Syrian Kurds in their fight against radical Islamists, has also denied any knowledge of a proposed base.
“Not that I am aware of,” said Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis during a media briefing, when asked if Moscow had given Washington notice of its plans to bring troops to Afrin.