Russia has begun establishing a permanent military presence at air and naval bases in Syria, the defense minister said Tuesday.
The announcement by Sergey Shoigu follows President Vladimir Putin’s order for Russian forces to begin withdrawing from Syria but to maintain a foothold at Tartus naval base and the military airport at Khmeimim.
“Last week, the supreme commander-in-chief approved the structure and the personnel strength of the Tartus and Khmeimim bases.” Shoigu said, according to official news agency TASS. “We have started forming a permanent grouping there.”
As well as the two bases, Russia will also maintain three military police battalions and a reconciliation center in Syria.
Last week, the State Duma -- Russia’s lower house of parliament -- ratified a deal with Bashar al-Assad’s regime to expand the Mediterranean naval facility at Tartus.
According to the document, Russian vessels, including nuclear-powered cruisers, will be allowed to enter Syrian waters and ports. AA