Assad offers Putin expanded, permanent bases in Syria. Some 200 Syrian mercenaries die in Ukraine war

In two days of talks in Moscow on March 15-16, Syria’s Bashar Assad gave President Vladimir Putin the option of expanding or increasing Russian bases in his country as well as reiterating his full backing for Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine.”

DEBKAfile’s military sources note that Russian forces already maintain a large air base at Khmeimim, a naval facility at Tartus on the Mediterranean and, in the last three months, acquired another northern air base at al-Jarrah in Aleppo.

Assad stated: “Because this is my first visit since the start of the special military operation in Ukraine, I would like to repeat the Syrian position in support of this special operation. Syria recognizes the territories of Ukraine which Russia has seized as historically Russian territories – even if the war had not happened.”

Assad went on to say: “Syria would welcome any Russian proposals to set up new military bases and boost Russian troop numbers. They need not be temporary,” he said. “We think that expanding the Russian presence in Syria is a good thing,” said, adding: “Russia’s military presence in any country should not be based on anything temporary.”

Regarding their military cooperation in the Ukraine conflict, neither of the two leaders referred publicly to the fact that Syrian military personnel are fighting alongside Russian troops in the capacity of mercenaries. Western sources estimate that Syria has contributed 2,500 and 3,000 men under arms, hailing mainly from the Liwqa al-Quds (the “Jerusalem Brigade) of the Syrian army’s 4th armored division, its “Tiger forces” and Palestinians. Each is believed to earn $3,000 per month. They are to be found on the front lines of the battles in Donetsk and Kherson, where, according to the same estimates, Syrian forces have lost around 200 dead.

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