The Russian government has admitted to having military advisers in Syria and delivering air and ground weapons to Syrian government forces. An unnamed Syrian military source told Reuters last week that they’ve already started using these new weapons and that they’ve been “highly effective”. US intelligence officials also reported that Russia is building a military base in the coastal city of Latakia, raising the possibility of air combat missions in Syrian airspace.

At the same time, rumours have been circulating online about whether or not Russian troops are on Syrian soil.  Syrian state TV reportedly showed footage of Russian soldiers fighting alongside Assad’s army. Other outlets published ‘selfies’ allegedly taken by soldiers on the ground in Syria and posted to their Russian social media accounts.

Russia’s Ministry of Defense denied their troops being on the ground and Syria’s Foreign Minister dismissed a Russian military intervention in Syria but said his country is open to receiving troops in the future “if such a need arises".

While close political and military ties between Moscow and Damascus have existed since the early 1970s, Russia’s recent military buildup in the war-torn Syria has raised concerns about the Kremlin’s role in the ongoing conflict.

Putin defended Moscow’s military assistance to the Syrian government, saying his country is “supporting the government of Syria in the fight against a terrorist aggression” and that “without the Syrian authorities and the military playing an active role…it would be impossible to drive terrorists from this country and from the region as a whole”. But Syrian rebel groups questioned the Russian involvement in the conflict, with some arguing that the Kremlin “only wants the preservation of the Syrian regime".

So with the US and Russia holding talks on Syria, what does the Kremlin have to offer? Join the conversation at 19:30 GMT. 

On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:

Joshua Keating @joshuakeating
Staff writer, Slate

Rafif Jouejati @RafifJ

Director, Foundation to Restore Equality and Education in Syria

Kirill Mikhailov @ReggaeMortis1

Russian blogger

Viktor Levanov @viktorlevanov

Russian political blogger

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.