Moscow will not send volunteers to Syria: Officials

Russian tanks are transported on a military bridge during an exercise. Kremlin spokesmen said Russia would not send ground troops to fight in Syria, nor would it support citizens going overseas to fight.
PHOTO: Reuters

MOSCOW - Russia is not planning to send ground troops to fight Islamic State jihadists in Syria and will not support Russian volunteers willing to take part in the conflict, Moscow said on Tuesday.

"This is not the government's role," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

President Vladimir Putin is not focused on the possibility of Russian citizens joining the ranks of the Syrian army to support President Bashar al-Assad's beleaguered regime, Peskov said.

"This is not a topic on the agenda right now," he told Russian news agencies.

On Monday, admiral Vladimir Komoedov, who heads the defence committee at Russian parliament's lower house, told the Interfax news agency that a unit of Russian volunteers could join the Syrian army.

"Given that Russians are already fighting alongside the Islamic State, we can think that others will want to fight in the ranks of the Syrian army," Komoedov told AFP on Tuesday.

But he stressed that Russia would not support any citizen-led initiatives to take part in conflicts beyond the country's borders.

"The Russian state has nothing to do with them," he said.

Under Russian law, individuals can face up to seven years in prison if found guilty of taking part in an armed conflict abroad.

Russia last week announced the launch of a bombing campaign against the Islamic State group in Syria, but Putin ruled out sending ground troops to the war-torn country.

The foreign ministry reiterated Tuesday that Russia's involvement in Syria would be limited to its current air campaign.

"Volunteers are not being called upon, enlisted or campaigned for," foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told a briefing.

Separately, a high-ranking military official in Syria told AFP that claims Moscow was allegedly preparing for a ground intervention was a Western attempt at diminishing Russia's role.

"Our Russian friends are merely conducting air strikes against terrorist groups," the official said.

More about