Syrian and Russian troops conduct joint drills in Syria

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Syrian and Russian troops conducted joint military drills in Syria involving ground and air forces, Syrian state media reported Wednesday.

Russian and Syrian troops simulated attacking enemy positions under the cover of artillery shelling and airstrikes by warplanes and helicopters, according to a video released by Syria’s Defense Ministry. Paratroopers also took part in the war games, taking over positions on overlooking hills.

The maneuvers were attended by the commander of the Russian forces in Syria, Lt. Gen. Alexander Chaiko, and Syria’s Defense Minister Gen. Ali Mahmoud Abbass.

Russia is a main backer of President Bashar Assad and has a broad presence in Syria, where an 11-year conflict has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced half the country’s pre-war population.

Russia became involved militarily in Syria in September 2015 helping to tip the balance of power in favor of Assad’s forces.

Such joint drills are not uncommon in Syria.

In June, the Syrian and Russian air forces conducted drills over different parts of the country, including on the edge of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

The two countries also conducted a drill a week before Russia began its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.

Days before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began, the Russian military deployed long-range nuclear-capable bombers and fighter jets carrying state-of-the-art hypersonic missiles to Syria for massive naval maneuvers in the Mediterranean Sea.

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