Russia sends troops to ‘police’ Syria de-escalation zones

Written By: Ian Hernon
Published: July 29, 2017 Last modified: July 29, 2017

Russia has deployed forces to monitor so-called de-escalation zones in southern Syria.

The Russian defence ministry said military police had been sent to Eastern Ghouta (pictured) on the edge of the capital Dam­ascus, and to an area in the south-west.

It is the first time foreign personnel have been despatched to help implement the “safe zones” agreed with Turkey and Iran earlier this year.

Russian defence ministry spokes­man, Lt Gen Sergei Rudskoi, said a contingent had set up two checkpoints and 10 observation posts on front lines between Syrian forces and rebels in the two areas.

He said neighbouring Israel had been informed in advance. Israel is reported to have opposed the idea of Russia policing the zones, fearing it would be used as cover by Hezbollah militants and other Iranian-backed militia to move closer to Israel’s front line.

A plan for four de-escalation zones was agreed between Russia and Iran, who both strongly support Syria, and Turkey, which backs the rebels, at talks in the Kazakh capital, Astana, in May.

Rudskoi said military police had been sent to checkpoints and monitoring posts in Eastern Ghouta, in parts of which the Syrian military declared a halt to fighting following talks in Egypt between Russia and “moderate” rebel groups.

However, the UK-based monitoring group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said Syrian aircraft have carried out air strikes there since then. Syria’s war has claimed more than 330,000 lives since it erupted in 2011, with millions more displaced.

About Ian Hernon

Ian Hernon is Deputy Editor of Tribune