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Turkish troops shelled by Syrian forces were among militants — Russian top brass

Russian aircraft did not carry out airstrikes near Behun in Syria’s Idlib, according to the Defense Ministry
The Russian Defense Ministry  Mikhail Tereshchenko/TASS
The Russian Defense Ministry
© Mikhail Tereshchenko/TASS

MOSCOW, February 28. /TASS/. The Turkish military who came under fire from Syrian troops on February 27 were among the advancing militants, the Russian Defense Ministry told reporters.

"Turkish military who were in the terrorist units’ battle formations came under Syrian troops’ fire near the inhabited community of Behun on February 27," the ministry said.

According to the ministry, militants from the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham terror group (one of the names of Jabhat al-Nusra, outlawed in Russia) made an attempt to launch a large-scale offensive in Syria’s Idlib.

"On February 27, 2020, the units of the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham terror group operating in the Idlib de-escalation zone made an attempt to conduct a large-scale offensive operation on the positions of Syrian government troops," the ministry informed.

It stressed that the Russian Reconciliation Center in Syria had requested information on the exact locations of all units of the Turkish armed forces deployed close to the areas of terrorists’ military operations. According to the information provided by Ankara, there were no Turkish troops in the Behun area, the Defense Ministry stressed.

The Russian Reconciliation Center has stayed in touch with Turkey’s coordination center in Idlib in order to rule out any security threats to Turkish observation posts and units deployed in the Idlib de-escalation zone caused by the Syrian army’s reprisal fire.

Air strikes by Russia

As for the Russian Aerospace Forces, they did not carry out airstrikes in the area close to Behun where Turkish servicemen had been killed, the Russian top brass stated. "Aircraft of Russia’s Aerospace Forces were not used near the inhabited community of Behun," the statement reads.

According to the Defense Ministry, "immediately after receiving information about the injured Turkish troops, Russia took comprehensive measures to ensure full cessation of hostilities by Syrian forces." The evacuation of the Turkish servicemen who had been killed or wounded to Turkey was ensured as well.

Governor of Turkey’s Hatay province bordering Syria Rahmi Dogan earlier reported that Turkish troops had come under fire in Syria’s idlib Governorate, with at least 33 soldiers killed. According to Omer Celik, spokesman for the Justice and Development Party led by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, after that incident Ankara will view Syrian troops as enemy targets.

The situation in Idlib deteriorated dramatically in early February after the Russian and Turkish taskforces had made another attempt to enforce a ceasefire. Terrorists only intensified their attacks instead. Last week, Erdogan said that Ankara was ready to use all its combat might in case of a military operation in Idlib. He also noted that another military campaign in Idlib was just a matter of time.