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MOSCOW, October 19. /TASS/. The decision to launch the Russian operation in Syria was taken with no haste, with all pros and cons discussed on September 29, the day before the first air strikes on terrorists, Sergey Ivanov, the chief of Russia’s presidential staff, said in an interview with TASS.
"There was no haste or anything spontaneous," Ivanov said.
"The final discussion on the operation in Syria, with senior military officials taking part, was held at a meeting of Russia's Security Council late in the evening on September 29. We considered all the pros and cons, all strengths and weaknesses once again," he added.
"The presidential request to the Federation Council followed only after that. I brought the text to the FC building in Bolshaya Dmitrovka Street early the next morning," Ivanov said.
"All steps had been considered well beforehand and agreed with the Supreme Commander-in-Chief. It is common knowledge that the combat aircraft and some special units of the Russian armed forces had been dispatched to Syria well in advance," he said.
"That's standard international practice. And quite legitimate, by the way. But let's be realistic: everybody understands that the redeployment of several dozen planes cannot be kept secret. Everything can be seen well from space," Ivanov said.
Ivanov also dismissed western media reports that it was a trio of Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, Security Council Secretary Nikolay Patrushev and him who talked President Vladimir Putin into beginning the air operation in Syria.
"Making serious comments regarding such ‘leaks’ is always very hard. But if we are to stay neutral and discuss only the hard facts, I will say this: the mentioned ‘anonymous sources’ got it all wrong. How it all happened was very different," Ivanov said.
The launch of the Russian operation in Syria was linked with the situation in the Mideastern country and had no purpose of distracting attention from Ukraine, Sergey Ivanov went on to say.
"The situation has turned intolerant," Ivanov said, adding that "Russia in this particular case is pursuing no foreign policy ambitions."
He dismissed as "plain gossip" the allegations that operation in Syria was aimed to switch attention from the events in Ukraine.
"I've already explained why we found it right and appropriate to respond to the request from Syria's legitimate leadership for help in fighting against terrorists of all sorts. What attempts to switch attention are you talking about?" Ivanov said.
According to Sergey Ivanov, Russia has taken all the necessary measures to protect its air group in Syria.
"I wouldn't say there is a serious risk of an attack against the Russian air group in Syria," Ivanov said. "Theoretically everything is possible, but all precautions have been taken."
"Our troops will not be involved in clashes on the ground. We declared that from the outset and in very clear terms," he added.
"The air base from where our planes fly combat missions is inside an area under the full control of Syrian government forces. There is a certain level of protection, and a very serious one," Ivanov said. "Apart from the air pilots and the maintenance personnel based in Latakia there is a small commando unit responsible for guarding the airbase."
"As for what has been said about the expected losses, we'd prefer to be more tactful and to avoid counting the US Marines who've already lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan," he said.