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State Duma ratifies deal on Russian air task force’s indefinite deployment in Syria

The agreement stipulates that the Russian aviation group is deployed in Syria at the request of the Syrian side at Hmeymim aerodrome in the province of Latakia free of charge

MOSCOW, October 7. /TASS/. The State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament, has ratified a Russian-Syrian agreement on the indefinite deployment of Russia’s air task force in Syria.

The document was signed on August 26, 2015 in Damascus and was submitted by the Russian president almost a year after - on August 9, 2016 - to the State Duma for consideration.

The agreement stipulates that the Russian aviation group is deployed in Syria at the request of the Syrian side at Hmeimim aerodrome in the province of Latakia free of charge.

The Russian air group will be employed based on its commander’s decision in accordance with the plans agreed on with the Syrian authorities. The structure of the group is determined by Moscow. "Armaments, ammunition, equipment and materials necessary for the fulfillment of appropriate tasks by the Russian air group, for ensuring security and vital functions of its personnel, are delivered to Syria without any charges or tariffs. Russian air group personnel freely cross the border, and are not subject to any checks by Syrian border control or customs authorities," as follows from the explanatory note.

According to the agreement, the Russian personnel and their family members are granted immunity similar to diplomatic, the protection of Russia’s property, archives and transport vehicles is also guaranteed.

The agreement is signed for an indefinite period and comes into force from the date of signing. The Russian air task force in Syria is deployed in Syria "in the interests of maintaining peace and stability in the region," including combating international terrorism and promoting a political dialogue in Syria, said Leonid Slutsky, the chairman of the international committee of Russia’s State Duma lower parliament house. Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Pankov said the implementation of the agreement will generate no extra budgetary spending and will be based on the regular allocations from the federal budget to the Russian defense ministry.

Russia’s Aerospace Force launched pinpoint strikes against Islamic State and Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra, both outlawed in Russian as terrorist organizations) targets in Syria on September 30, 2015 at the request from Syria’s President Bashar Assad. Air strikes were delivered at military hardware, communications centers, transport vehicles, munitions depots and other terrorist infrastructure facilities. With backing from the Russian air force, the Syrian army liberated about 400 settlements. Serious blow was delivered on illegal oil trade used by terrorists as a key source of incomes. Key channels of arms and munitions supplies to terrorists have been blocked.

Withdrawal of the major part of Russia’s air group from Syria began on March 15, 2016. As President Vladimir Putin said in a relevant decree of March 14, the Russian military had fulfilled most of their tasks. However two Russian military bases are still active - at the Hmeimim airfield and in Tartus. The Russian military continue participation in anti-terrorism efforts.