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MOSCOW, January 25. /TASS/. The Russian Defense Ministry does not plan to create a new airbase in the area of Al-Qamishli in Syria, contrary to a number of previous Western media allegations, the ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said on Monday.
"There are no ‘new’ airbases or an additional staging airfield for Russia’s warplanes in the Syrian Arab Republic and there are no plans to create them," the official said.
According to General Konashenkov, "Speculations on this subject published by The Times are either an amateurish farce or a clumsy attempt of informational cover-up of Turkey’s actions to amass troops near the Syrian border in the area of ··Al-Qamishli."
"We have repeatedly stressed that it takes warplanes of the Russian aviation group in the Syrian Arab Republic about half an hour to fly to any target in the most distant area of the country," Konashenkov said. Thus, according to the ministry spokesman, "only absolutely ignorant persons" can "seriously talk" of the deployment of Russian aircraft in the area of Al-Qamishli.
Russia’s Aerospace Force started delivering strikes in Syria at facilities of the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist groups (both banned in Russia) on September 30, 2015. The air group initially comprised over 50 aircraft and helicopters, including Sukhoi Su-24M, Su-25SM and state-of-the-art Su-34 aircraft. They were redeployed to the Khmeimim airbase in the province of Latakia. On October 7, Moscow also involved the Russian Navy in the military operation. Four missile ships of the Caspian Flotilla fired 26 Kalibr cruise missiles (NATO codename Sizzler) at militants’ facilities in Syria.
In mid-November, after an alleged terrorist attack on Russian passenger jet that fell in Egypt killing 224 people on board, Moscow increased the number of aircraft taking part in the operation in Syria by several dozen and involved strategic bombers in the strikes as well. Targets of the Russian aircraft include terrorists’ gasoline tankers and oil refineries. Russia’s aircraft have made thousands of sorties since the start of the operation in Syria, with over a hundred of them performed by long-range aircraft.
On November 24, a Turkish F-16 fighter brought down a Russian Sukhoi Su-24M bomber involved in Moscow’s military operation against the Islamic State (a terrorist group outlawed in Russia). Ankara claimed the warplane violated the Turkey’s airspace. The Russian Defense Ministry said the warplane was flying over Syrian territory without violating Turkey’s airspace. The Russian president referred to the attack as a “stab in Russia’s back” and promised that the move would cause response action from Russia. Moscow deployed new S-400 air defense systems in Syria in order to protect the warplanes involved in the military operation and started arming the fighters intended to provide air support to bombers and attack aircraft in Syria with air-to-air missiles.