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MADRID, December 11. /TASS/. Russia’s activities in Syria are an "act of defending Europe," Syrian President Bashar Assad told EFE news agency in an interview published on Friday.
Answering a question on what Russian President Vladimir Putin asked for in exchange for helping the Syrian authorities in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) terrorist organization banned in Russia, Assad said: "He did not ask for anything in return for one simple reason — this is not trading." "In fact, normal relations between two countries are based on common interests," Assad stressed. "The issue is what interests do Syria and Russia share? Is Russia interested in growing terrorism in Syria, in the collapse of the Syrian state, in anarchy? No, [Russia] is not interested [in that]," Assad said adding that Moscow "wants stability in Syria, Iraq and in the region as a whole."
"We are located not so far from Russia, and let me also add, not far from Europe," the Syrian president noted. "In this respect, Russia’s activities in Syria represent an act of defending Europe." Assad added that recent terrorist attacks in Europe "are proof that what is going on" in Syria affects Europe as well.
The Syrian president stressed that Russia does not plan to open new military bases in Syria. "They [Russia] refuted it themselves two days ago. If they had planned something, they would have announced it," he added. Assad said Iran does not have any plans to open its own military bases in Syria as well. "No, they [Iran] have never thought about it, never raised or discussed this issue," the president noted.
On December 9 Russian Defense Ministry’s official spokesman Igor Konashenkov said that Moscow will not open new air bases on the territory of Syria as there is no need in this. "One does not have to be a military expert to understand that it will take only about 30-40 minutes for any Russian plane to fly from the Hmeimim air base to any point on the Syrian territory. So, there was and is no need to establish additional Russian air bases on the Syrian territory contrary to what ‘strategists on sofas’ say," Konashenkov said.
On September 30 Russia’s Federation Council unanimously approved President Vladimir Putin’s request to launch a military operation in Syria against Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist groups. Russian Aerospace Defense Forces delivered first targeted airstrikes at militants’ positions on the same day. More than 50 jets and helicopters take part in the operation, including Su-34 and Su-24M fighter jets, Su-25 aircraft, Su-30SM fighter aircraft, and Mi-8 and Mi-24 helicopters. Since the start of the operation, Russian aviation made hundreds of sorties, destroyed dozens of ammunition depots, explosives production plants and command posts.