The move is a blow to Britain and America’s mission to wipe out ISIS but maintain an opposition to brutal dictator President Bashar al-Assad
BY CHRIS HUGHES
Russia has sent its crack special troops into Syria to back up President Bashar al-Assad’s bid to wipe out his opposition.
Vladimir Putin’s feared Spetsnaz unit and a covert para battalion ghosted into the war-torn country and are preparing for an all-out assault on rebels fighting the regime – including moderate units such as the western-backed Free Syrian Army.
A military source said: “Putin’s marines are there to guard the airbases they are using against sabotage by rebels.
“But Spetsnaz and air-assault troops are not there to provide security to static objects, they are extremely aggressive and highly trained.
“They are there to mop up after air strikes, call in air strikes, go on extremely covert missions against rebels and ultimately wipe them out.
“And they will not be as accountable as British or US special forces. They are there for one reason, to wipe out anyone threatening Assad. By any means.
“And by doing that they will be consolidating Russia’s position on the Med and in the Middle East.”
Putin claims the mission is to defeat IS – but his warplanes have been helping Assad by smashing rebel positions.
Most of the targets in Northern Syria have been al-Qaeda affiliates or less extreme rebel groups opposed to the leader, some of which are CIA-trained and MI6-backed.
Spetsnaz – Special Purpose Soldiers – have been joined by the 7th Air Assault Mountain Division.
They are among Russia’s toughest and most shadowy troops, many of whom have fought dirty wars in Chechnya where they built up a deep hatred of jihadists.
They went on bloody revenge missions against local jihad units to punish them for atrocities against Russian troops and civilians.
America has vowed to step up its attacks on IS in reaction to Putin’s air strikes on Assad’s opponents.
And Nato today urged Russia to end its rebel attacks and focus on beating IS.
Saudi clerics called on Muslim countries to back holy war against Syria and its Iranian and Russian backers.
The Sunni-ruled land is suspected of supporting al-Qaeda and IS against Shia supporters of Assad. Saudi has joined air strikes on IS in Syria.