MOSCOW, October 12. /TASS/. Russia needs to have military bases in Syria for conducting peacekeeping operations and protecting own national interests in the region, Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko told reporters on Wednesday.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Federation Council had ratified an agreement on Russian air task force’s indefinite deployment in Syria at the Hmeymim air base and on the setting up of a Russian naval base in Tartus.
Commenting on the law, the speaker of the upper house of parliament said, "The Middle East and Syria are of crucial importance for Russian national interests, primarily for national security."
"Our mission in Syria is purely peacekeeping, nothing else," she said. "(Russia) needs to have a naval base there to repair ships, to supply them with fuel and also to represent Russia’s interests in that region, which of much importance to us."
Besides, Matviyenko said that the deployment of Russian group at the Hmeimim air base was crucial for relations of Russia and Syria, and "on the whole, for Russia’s positions in that region."
The agreement was signed in Damascus on August 26, 2015. Almost a year later - on August 9, 2016 - it was submitted by Russia’s president to the State Duma for ratification. The deal stipulates that the Russian air force group will be deployed at the request of the Syrian side at the Hmeimim airfield in the Latakia province indefinitely and on a pro bono basis.
On Monday Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Pankov said Russia had plans to set up a permanent naval base in Tartus. He said "the corresponding documents have been drafted. Currently they are in the process of inter-departmental coordination."
Currently Tartus is being used as a logistics facility for Russian ships and a Russian aerospace task force is stationed at Hmeimim.
On September 30, 2015, Russia launched an anti-terrorist operation in Syria at the request of Syria’s President Bashar Assad. Russian planes are based at the Hmeimim air field. In March 2016, Putin issued orders to pull out the bulk of the Russian air group form Syria, but the remaining planes continued to deal strikes against militants.