: Reuters: On ground in Syria, scant evidence of draw down trumpeted by Kremlin

15:16 Apr. 16, 2016

Reuters: On ground in Syria, scant evidence of draw down trumpeted by Kremlin

A battle ship named 'Semetlivy' belonging to the Russian Navy passes through the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul, Turkey on March 7, 2016 (Getty Images)

Russia deploys troops and equipment to Syria by air in recent weeks- journalists say

A month since Vladimir Putin announced the withdrawal of most Russian forces from Syria, his military contingent there is as strong as ever, with fewer jets but many more attack helicopters able to provide closer combat support to government troops.

Supply runs have also continued via the "Syrian Express" shipping route, Russian engineering troops have been deployed to the ancient city of Palmyra and further information has surfaced about Russian special forces operating in Syria - suggesting the Kremlin is more deeply embroiled in the conflict than it previously acknowledged.

"There hasn't been a drawdown in any meaningful way," said Nick de Larrinaga, Europe Editor of IHS Jane's Defence Weekly. "Russia's military presence in Syria is just as powerful now as it was at the end of 2015."

Read also Exclusive: Russia, despite draw down, shipping more to Syria than removing

Announcing a drawdown gave Putin some breathing space from Western political pressure over the operation, and an opportunity to carry out maintenance on heavily-used jets.

But by keeping a strong military force in place, Putin is maintaining his power to influence the situation in Syria by shoring up President Bashar al-Assad, Moscow's closest ally in the Middle East. Full story

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