In an unprecedented move, Russia has sent ground-troops into the Syrian battlefield in support of Bashar Assad as the dictator struggles to maintain his power in the continuous four-year-long civil war, according to a report by Kuwaiti daily al-Rai.

The report, which has not been substantiated by other sources, claims Russian military forces have been providing cover for T-90 tanks along with military air support which have attacked multiple strategic targets held by rebel forces in Idlib and Latakia.

In September, multiple US officials claimed that Russia had positioned about a half dozen tanks at a Syrian airfield at the center of a military buildup.

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One US official said seven Russian T-90 tanks were observed at the airfield near Latakia, a stronghold of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The Kuwaiti report adds that Russian forces have already taken over multiple strategic positions and have forced numerous rebel battalions to retreat. The report did not disclose whether there were Russian army casualties.

Over the last three months, Russia has steadily increased its participation in the Syrian domestic conflict, launching airstrikes from its bases in western Syria as it drops thousands of sorties on enemy targets.
 
Along with airstrikes, Russia has also increased its naval presence in the Mediterranean Sea along the Syrian coast while it coordinates with Iranian military forces and Hezbollah.

Russian President Vladimir Putin stated on several past occasions that his country had no intention of sending boots on the ground to participate in the Syrian civil war.

If the report is correct, it could signify a dramatic shift in Russian policy, or merely be a one-time specific action.

Reuters contributed to this report






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