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Syria repels drone attack against Russian base

Russian soldiers display the remains of a drone belonging to militants, shot down over the Hmeimim air base in the Syrian province of Latakia on August 16, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

Syrian air defenses have shot down three “hostile” targets over a Russian air base in the country’s western coastal province of Latakia.

State media gave no further details about Sunday’s suspected attack, which comes amid rising violations of a ceasefire brokered by Turkey and Russia and in place in the country’s west since September.

The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a pro-opposition monitoring group, said Syrian air defense systems intercepted suspected attacking drones.

The Britain-based observatory said such drones had previously targeted the Russian air base in Latakia, despite the ceasefire agreement.

The Hmeimim air base has recently been a frequent target of drone attacks, with the last such attack taking place in November.

Last year, Russia warned that terrorists had acquired advanced technologies on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). 

Head of the UAV department of the Russian General Staff Major General Aleksander Novikov said coordinates used for drone attacks were much more precise than those available on the internet. 

"The production of such deadly machines requires superior professional knowledge, practical skills and experience in operating drones," he said.

Novikov also said the explosives carried by the drones could have been manufactured in a number of countries. "We know, how much and whom they have paid for this provocation," he said.  

Russian President Vladimir Putin said back then that Moscow knew the "provocateurs" of drone raids.

"Firstly, these are provocations aimed at the collapse of the earlier reached agreements. Secondly, that is also an attempt to destroy our relations with partners — Turkey and Iran," Putin said.

The Russian Defense Ministry also said that it had detected an American spy aircraft circling in the skies over the Russian facilities in Syria during drone strikes in January 2018.

Russia has been helping Syrian forces in their fight against foreign-backed Takfiri militants. The military assistance began in September 2015 at the official request of the Syrian government.

‘Deal with Turkey not fully implemented’

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on state television Sunday that the deal with Turkey on Idlib was not fully implemented, leaving the situation there a matter of concern “first of all, by the Syrian authorities and also Moscow.”

However, he didn’t comment on the news of the suspected drone attack.

Russia and Turkey last year agreed to establish a demilitarized zone in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib, which has so far held off a government offensive on the last major terrorist stronghold in the country.

But infighting between the militant groups in Idlib escalated into a major showdown.

Earlier this month, members of the al-Qaeda-linked Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) seized control of Idlib and the surrounding countryside and forced rival Turkey-backed militants to accept the situation.

Last week, Russia complained that the situation in Idlib was rapidly deteriorating and that HTS’ hold was increasingly threatening its air base as it called on Ankara to do more to rein in the militants in the region.

Under the deal, Turkey pledged to disarm and remove HTS militants in Idlib.

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