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Russia sets up helicopter base in Northeast Syria after US withdrawal

Russian Air Force (Igor Dvurekov/WikiCommons)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Russia has announced that it set up a helicopter base at the northeastern Syrian city of Qamishli following the U.S. troop withdrawal from the area last month.

The Russian Defense Ministry’s Zvezda TV channel showed footage of helicopter gunships arriving at the base, which is protected by Pantsir surface-to-air missile systems.

The helicopters include two Mi-35 gunships and a Mi-8 military transport helicopter, with more to follow, Zvezda Tv said.

The deployment comes less than a month after U.S. forces withdrew from the area following President Donald Trump’s abrupt order to pull them out of parts of Syria.

“From this day onwards our aviation group will operate permanently at Qamishli’s city airport,” said Pavel Remnev, Zvezda’s correspondent, calling the deployment “a historic moment.”

Russia has previously started using military helicopters to patrol an area near Syria’s border with Turkey in order to protect Russian military police working on the ground there.

The joint patrols with Turkish forces are meant to monitor an agreement between Moscow and Ankara after Turkey launched an offensive across its border in October, seeking to push out Kurdish fighters whom it views as a national security threat.