Russian Special Forces Seen as Key to Aleppo Victory by Thomas Grove, Wall Street Journal
Russian special-operations forces have played a pivotal part in the Syrian ground offensive to retake Aleppo, a role shielded by secrecy about their operations there.
In the wake of Russia’s punishing aerial bombardment, Russian special forces have been operating in Aleppo for almost two months, helping the Syrian army with a focus on targeting rebel leaders in the eastern half of the city, according to two experts on Russia’s military. On Sunday, the weekly state news program Vesti Nedeli offered a rare glimpse of Russians in combat, airing footage of Russian special operators in Syria.
“Russian special forces have been in Aleppo for a number of weeks, where they’ve taken on a combat role,” said Ruslan Pukhov, the head of Moscow-based defense think tank CAST.
The elite troops are the same forces that carried out Moscow’s surprise annexation of Crimea in 2014. They are modeled on U.S. special-operations units—who also have a presence in Syria.
The presence of Russian special forces underscores the strategic importance for the Kremlin to make sure Aleppo is firmly in the hands of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad before the allies seek to restart any negotiations on Syria’s future. Any such talks are unlikely until after President-elect Donald Trump takes office in January, bringing what is expected to be a more friendly U.S. outlook toward Russia…