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Damascus confirms President Assad asked for Russia's military aid in fighting terrorists

This August 26, 2015 photo shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. ©AFP

The Syrian government has confirmed that President Bashar al-Assad requested military assistance from Russia, as Moscow gets the parliamentary approval for military presence in Syria.

Assad’s office said in a statement on Wednesday that the Syrian president had sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, asking for the military support.

“The Russian air force was dispatched to Syria after a request from the Syrian state via a letter by President Assad to President Putin that includes an invitation to send the Russian air force as part of President Putin’s initiative to fight terrorism,” the statement said.

A post on the Facebook page of the Syrian president also noted that Russia’s military support “came upon a request from the Syrian state.”

The comments came hours after legislators at Russia’s upper house of parliament unanimously approved a plan to allow President Putin to send Russian forces to Syria. The Kremlin, however, said the military presence will only be confined to the dispatch of air force to the country.

The Kremlin’s chief of staff, Sergei Ivanov, said Assad had “appealed to the leadership of our country with a request for military aid.”

Officials in Moscow gave no further details about the planned operation.

The United States and its allies have been accusing Russia for the past weeks of trying to secretly build up a military presence in Syria’s coastal province of Latakia. Moscow maintains a naval base in Syria’s Tartus Province.

The potential support experienced a boost after Putin made a heartfelt defense of Assad in his address to the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Monday. Putin said during the speech that it would be a “huge mistake” to exclude Assad and his military from the ongoing fight against militants in the country. 

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