ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Nearly 10,000 foreign militants fighting with extremists in Syria came from Russia and its former satellite states and pose a serious threat to Russia’s security, Russian media reported President Vladimir Putin had told distinguished seaman who were returning to Moscow from operations on an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean Sea.
Putin said on Thursday that more than 4,000 militants from Russia and another 5,000 from former Soviet Union states are fighting with extremists in Syria, according to Russia Today news.
The report added Putin, citing Russian intelligence data, said “this poses a serious threat to Russia’s security.”
The chief of the Russian Armed Forces General Staff announced in January that Putin had decided to reduce its Armed Forces grouping in Syria including the removal of an aircraft carrier and other battleships from the Mediterranean Sea.
Putin took credit for sending the aircraft carrier group manned by 2,500 crew members to Syria, adding that Russia does not intend to interfere in Syria’s internal affairs, but wants to deal with the terrorists, Russia Today wrote.
“Our goal is to stabilize the legitimate government and strike a decisive blow to the international terrorism,” Russia Today reported Putin said, adding that “the sooner the country [Syria] will proceed with political settlement the more chances the international community will have in putting an end to the terrorist blight on the Syrian territory.”
Moscow has supported government troops of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s civil war since September of 2015, and allowed Assad’s forces to retake Aleppo in December.
Pro-government forces have recently defended a Syrian government airport near Deir ez-Zor and supported Assad loyalists near al-Bab and Raqqa.
War ships from the United Kingdom escorted the Russian aircraft carrier named ‘Admiral Kuznetsov’ through the English Channel in late January on its trip back to Russian waters, British newspaper, The Independent reported.
“We will keep a close eye on the Admiral Kuznetsov as it skulks back to Russia; a ship of shame whose mission has only extended the suffering of the Syrian people,” the Independent reported British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said.
“We are man-marking these vessels every step of the way around the UK as part of our steadfast commitment to keep Britain safe.”
The mission marked the first use of Russian carried-based aircraft in combat.
The fourth round of UN-brokered peace talks for Syria began on Thursday in Geneva.
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