human rights watch

lördag 26 mars 2016

Russia admits to training Syria Kurds

Russia admits to training Syria Kurds.

The commander of Russia’s ground forces in Syria revealed that his country’s military advisors have trained Kurdish fighters in the north of the war-torn country. “In the shortest possible time [after our intervention] Russia’s armed forces established a system of military advisors… who successfully solves the tasks of training government, Kurdish and other patriotic troops,” Colonel-General Alexander Dvornikov said in an interview with Rossiyskaya Gazeta published Wednesday.

The top Russian official praised the People’s Protection Units (YPG), saying that “despite their differences with authorities in Damascus, the Syrian Kurds took an active part in the fight against terrorists in the north of the country.” “They continue to fight against ISIS and Al-Nusra Front,” he added. Dvornikov’s comments were the first public admission that Moscow has taken an active military role supporting the YPG, which is also backed by the US in its fight against ISIS. 

Top Kurdish officials have in past months stated they welcome coordination and assistance with Russia or any other power fighting the jihadist organization. Shortly after the start of Russia’s military intervention in Syria in late September 2015, the commander of the YPG, Sipan Hemo, told Sputnik Türkiye—which is owned by Moscow—that his fighting force requested arms from Russia as well as general military coordination.

The YPG chief’s comments come after Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar—which has an editorial line supportive of the Syrian regime—reported that Russia had set up a coordination process with Kurdish forces and parties in northern Syria. On February 10, Syrian Kurds opened a representative office in Moscow in the latest sign of their warming ties with Russia.

Syrian rebel groups in northern Aleppo have alleged that the YPG and their allies Jaysh al-Thuwar—an ethnic Arab fighting force—has coordinated with the Syrian regime and benefitted from Russian airstrikes. After a regime offensive on February 3 cut off rebel groups north of Aleppo from their cohorts in Syria’s second city, Kurdish-led forces took advantage of heavy Russian bombardment to seize a number of rebel-held positions.

The mid-February Kurdish advances pushed opposition forces back to a small stretch of territory near the Turkish border, including the strategic town of Aazaz that serves as a logistical hub for the opposition in the region. 


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