Reports have emerged from Russian news sources†that the country has sent ‘anti-terror’ troops into Syria.
The marines are reported by RIA Novosti, a Kremlin-tied news service, to have landed at the Russian base in the Mediterranean port city of Tartus. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last week that Russia did not plan to send troops and although Russia’s Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov has admitted that military ‘advisers’ are in the country yesterday a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman said that “no warship is on a mission in Syria.”
A United Nations Security Council source told ABC News that the development was ‘a bomb’ certain to have serious repercussions.
The Syrian regime’s supporters have claimed that foreign special forces are present in the country, but this has never been backed up with evidence. Syria’s state-run SANA news agency quoted a military source as denouncing the reports of Russian troops as part of a “campaign of lies” against Syria.
Russia has now backed Red Cross calls for daily humanitarian ceasefires in Syria. It also appears to be moving towards endorsing former UN General Secretary Kofi Annan’s plan for settling the Syrian crisis.
Annan has met with the Syrian president. His peace proposals have not been made public but media reports are that they include an end to violence, humanitarian access to violence-hit areas, the release of opposition detainees and a withdrawal of security forces from the major cities of anti-regime protests.
Attempts in the United Nations Security Council to pass resolutions on Syria have been repeatedly blocked by Russia which has accused America of trying to start another war. Russia is Syria’s biggest ally and has said it will continue to sell Syria millions of dollars worth of weapons.
In other news from Syria, opposition activists from the eastern city of Deir Ezzor have posted video which purports to show Syrian soldiers throwing dead and injured civilians from rooftops.
The fiercest battles yet in the capital have occurred in the El Mezze district of Damascus. Al Jazeera has obtained hundreds of documents on the regime’s strategy which show a desperation to stop protests and opposition attacks in the capital. They also show repeated attempts to get Syria’s diplomats to defect. The documents were leaked by a defector and could form part of a war crimes prosecution of the president.
Human Rights Watch has accused the opposition of serious human rights abuses. Sarah Leah Whitson, the organisation’s Middle East director said:
Opposition leaders should make it clear to their followers that they must not torture, kidnap, or execute under any circumstances.
Syrian first lady, Asma al-Assad, is to be reportedly added to the EU sanctions list following email leaks which showed her luxury spending on items such as $5,000 Christian Louboutin stilettos.
And The Syrian Foreign Ministry has told a British newspaper that the opposition needs a ‘Nelson Mandela-type’, a person willing to say:
I’ve suffered. I’ve been in prison but I’m willing to talk.