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Russia to upgrade its naval, air bases in Syria: Report

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The photo taken on December 16, 2015, shows two Russian Sukhoi Su-25 bombers at Russia's Hmeimim Air Base in Latakia province, northwestern Syria. (Photo by AFP)

Russia intends to improve and expand its naval and air bases in Syria to further contain terrorist groups operating in the war-torn country.

Russia's Interfax news agency quoted an unnamed source as making the remarks on Sunday, adding that Moscow would begin repairing a second runway at Hmeimim Air Base in Syria's western coastal province of Latakia.

Hmeimim is Russia’s permanent air base inside Syria, located southeast of Latakia, the provincial capital, and adjacent to Bassel al-Assad International Airport, with which it shares some airfield facilities. The base is home to dozens of Russian warplanes that are used to pound terrorist positions across the country.

On January 12, Russia’s Defense Ministry spokesman, Major General Igor Konashenkov, said Moscow had withdrawn six Sukhoi Su-24 fighter jets from the air base and instead sent four Sukhoi Su-25 aircraft to the region.

The source further said Russia also planned to upgrade its naval base in Tartus, the second largest port city in Syria, where Russia has been keeping a support and maintenance facility for its naval forces since 1977. It added that Moscow would improve the base, located some 86 kilometers south of Hmeimim, so that it becomes capable of handling bigger ships such as cruisers.

Moscow would also deploy S-300 surface-to-air defense systems and Bastion coastal missile launchers in the naval base, the source added.

Last December, Russia's Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces General Valery Gerasimov said that Moscow had sufficient air defense capabilities in Syria thanks to its S-300 and S-400 systems deployed in the country.

Moscow launched its campaign against the Daesh Takfiri terrorists and other militant groups in Syria upon a request from Damascus in September 2015. Its airstrikes have helped Syrian forces advance counterterrorism operations against foreign-backed militants operating in the country since 2011.

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