8 September 2015

Photos Appear in Social Media Posts of Russian Soldiers in Syria Despite Kremlin Denials

Helen Mukhina
September 7, 2015

Investigation reveals the presence of Russian military in Syria

As authorities in Russia deny the country’s military presence in Syria, dozens of photos of Russian soldiers posted in various parts of Syria appear to suggest otherwise.

Photographs of soldiers and military equipment posted in social media with geotags indicating that they were taken in various parts of Syria from January through August were published in a Sept. 5 investigation by RFE/RL Russian service.

The photos show military personnel in Russian uniforms and equipment on the territory of the country torn by civil war between army of President Bashar al-Assad, ISIS fighters and anti-government rebels. Their geotags show they were taken in Tartus, Homs, Latakia and other locations in Syria. The investigation also established that equipment and personnel were shipped from Russian port of Novorossiysk and Sevastopol in Russian-annexed Crimea.

On Sept. 5, during an official telephone call Secretary of State John Kerry said to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, the U.S. government expressed concern about Russia’s intentions to move toward a military buildup in Syria.

The Los Angeles Times Sept. 4 report indicates that U.S. intelligence officials obtained satellite captured photos of Russian military base for heavy equipment in Latakia province that can become a reason of significant escalation of the conflict.

On the same day, the New York Times quoted unidentified U.S. administration officials, as saying that Russia has dispatched a military advance team to Syria and has sent prefabricated housing units for hundreds of people to a Syrian airfield and delivered a portable air-traffic-control station there. The source speculated that Russian deployement in the area might reach 2,000-3,000 personnel.

Early in August, Dmitry Peskov, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, denied any plans of military involvement in Syrian conflict. “This issue is not on the agenda,” he said.

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