MOSCOW, Augusts 30. /TASS/. Russia’s upcoming drills in the Mediterranean Sea have nothing to do with the situation in Syria’s Idlib province, Russian Special Presidential Envoy for the Middle East and Africa, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told reporters on Thursday.
"I don’t think that drills can be related to the Idlib situation. I have heard about plans to hold such drills. Anyway, Idlib is not located on the Mediterranean Sea," he said.
The Russian Defense Ministry announced earlier on Thursday that Russia will hold large-scale drills in the Mediterranean Sea on August 1-8, which would involve 25 vessels and 30 aircraft from the country’s Navy and Aerospace Force.
Idlib is the only Syrian province still controlled by illegal armed groups. In 2017, a de-escalation zone was established in the region, where militants reluctant to lay down their arms can move together with their families. According to United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, Idlib currently hosts about 10,000 militants from the Jabhat al-Nusra and Al-Qaeda terror groups (both outlawed in Russia).
On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov expressed hope that western countries would refrain from stymieing a counter-terrorism operation against Jabhat al-Nusra in Idlib.