Russian parliament authorises use of troops abroad

Putin’s request to upper house came two days after he called for international teamwork in fight against ISIL in Syria.

Vladimir Putin
Putin's move followed a request of the military help by Assad [Alexei Nikolsky/RIA-Novosti via AP]

Russia’s upper house of parliament has granted President Vladimir Putin authorisation to deploy the country’s air force to Syria, according to the head of presidential administration.

Sergey Ivanov said on Wednesday that the Federation Council backed Putin’s request for approval unanimously.

“The operation’s military goal is exclusively air support of the Syrian armed forces in their fight against ISIL,” he said, referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group fighting against President Bashar al-Assad.

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He said Putin’s move followed a request for military help by Assad.

Ivanon said that the operation by the Russian air force was limited in time and the types of weapons used were not disclosed.

Putin’s request came on Wednesday, two days after he suggested at the UN General Assembly in New York teaming up with the US to carry out air strikes against ISIL in Syria, but ruled out any ground operation in the country.

Parliamentary approval

Putin has to request parliamentary approval for any use of Russian troops abroad, according to the Russian constitution.

The last time he did so was before Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula in March 2014.

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The Kremlin reported that Putin hosted a meeting of the Russian security council at his residence on Tuesday night outside of Moscow, saying that they were discussing “terrorism and extremism”.

On Saturday, Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign policy chief, told Al Jazeera that Russia was intending to step up its military involvement in Syria to prevent the “imminent” collapse of the Syrian government.

Speaking on Talk to Al Jazeera, Mogherini said Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, told her his country wanted to prevent the collapse of the Syrian state.

“His fear is of a complete collapse of the state structures in Syria; this could be one of the reasons Russia is talking in this way, but it could also be willingness to show that Russia is an important, substantial player,” Mogherini said.

Her comments followed reports that 500 Russian troops have already been deployed to a forward operating base in the Syrian port city of Latakia.

Without consent

In another development, a Russian media report has said that some Russian military contractors are being sent to Syria without their consent.

The report, published by the Russian online newspaper on Friday, said that 20 soldiers, including officers and contracted soldiers, were selected from a military unit of Russia’s Eastern military district command and sent on a mission without being told about the final destination.

According to the contractors cited in the report, the commander only told them at the beginning that they might be sent to a “hot country”.

On September 16, they were informally told by a representative of a military chief about the secretly planned deployment to Latakia, prompting protests from “almost everyone”.

A recent map shows at least 16 Russian combat aircraft stationed near Latakia [ Defense and Space/Reuters]
A recent map shows at least 16 Russian combat aircraft stationed near Latakia [ Defense and Space/Reuters]
Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies