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Russian soldiers reportedly refuse secret Syria deployment


A group of Russian soldiers who are serving in the army on military contracts (as opposed to draftees) have reportedly refused to be deployed in Latakia, Syria.

Officials from Russia's Eastern Command have denied this report, saying its training exercises are limited to Russian soil. Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said earlier today that the Kremlin has no knowledge of the situation.

A lieutenant who identified himself as Alexei N. told the Russian news website that commanders selected 20 of the best-trained soldiers and told them that they would be deployed to a hot region. They were warned that the climate would be very different from what they were used to and that there would be poisonous animals at the new place, but the specific region was not named. The group was first sent to the Black Sea port of Novorossiysk. At first, the soldiers assumed they were being sent to the east of Ukraine, but later they found out they would be deployed in Syria.

On September 16, a General Staff representative dressed in civilian clothing told the group that a secret decree stipulates that they would be sent to Latakia and that they may have to participate in fighting.

The group was due to be shipped off on September 17, but instead they appealed to the Military Prosecutor’s Office, and the deployment was delayed. Several of the soldiers have already submitted their letters of resignation from the army.

“Registrations were being taken off the technical equipment. We were told about the consolidation of an air base in Syria,” said another contractor. “One of the people at the loading station at the port told us that our men have been there for four months already.”

Russia is currently training Syrian soldiers in accordance with a weapons trade deal between the two countries. Officials have confirmed that Russian trainers have been sent to Syria. Russia also operates a military base in Tartus, and in the past Russian troops have been stationed at Latakia.

Earlier, Stratfor revealed satellite images showing construction work in Latakia. According to some sources, Russian tanks and weapons are stationed there.

On September 16, the Russian military high command admitted that Moscow might construct an air force base in Syria.

On September 18, Syria’s Foreign Ministry announced on television that Syria might appeal to Russia to bring in troops. He said that Russian troops are not actively partaking in the armed conflict in Syria at the moment.

For more on what we know and don’t know about Russia’s role in the Syrian civil war, see Russian troops in Syria: What we know and don’t know about the Russian military’s role in the Syrian civil war