Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, third left, visits the Hemeimeem air base in Syria. Russia's defense minister visited Syria on Saturday to meet the country's leader and inspect the Russian air base there, a high-profile trip intended to underline Moscow's role in the region. Image Credit: AP

Beirut: For the first time since Russia joined the Syrian battlefield last September, ground troops have been deployed near the strategic city of Aleppo in the Syrian north.

Their aim is to provide logistic support in the upcoming major battle for Aleppo.

Over the past 48-hours, six hundred Russian special forces have landed at the Hmaymeem Airbase on the Syrian coast and been transferred to Al Safira, a city in the Aleppo governorate strategically located on the Damascus-Aleppo Highway. From there they will be placed along the Castello Road, formerly the main lifeline for the Syrian Opposition from Turkey, helping channel arms, money, and food to Turkish-backed militants in eastern Aleppo.

That road has been fully seized by the Syrian Army, with strong Russian air cover, since mid-July.

It will now be used to bring UN aid to war-torn Aleppo; both the opposition held eastern part of the city, with its 200,000 inhabitants, and regime-held western Aleppo, with its 1.2 million residents.

The Russian troops will handle the distribution of aide and man the Castello Road with military checkpoints, sentry points, and intelligence units. Coming in light of numerous understandings between Moscow and Ankara, the move has been neither condemned nor challenged by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkey’s silence over the Russian deployment reciprocates Russian silent approval for the invasion of the Syrian border city of Jarablus in late August.

The Turks invaded Syrian territory with the official purpose of expelling Daesh.

Apart from a mild statement from Moscow and a knee-jerk reaction from Damascus, the Turkish invasion was allowed to pass, inflicting a double-blow on Daesh and Syrian Kurds, who feel that their dream project of statehood is being torpedoed by the Turkish-Russian-Syrian settlement, which seemingly has come at their expense.

The Syrians have started to bomb Kurdish positions along the Turkish border, and the Turks will use their current presence in Jerablus to take other cities like Manbij (30 km west of the Euphrates) and Al Bab (northeast of Aleppo), cutting the so-called Kurdish state in Syria right in two.

This territory, referring to as an “island” will be used as a buffer zone by the Turks, and in the future, might even house Syrian refugees who came to Turkey since 2011. In exchange for letting this happen, the Turks will turn a blind eye as their troops and the Syrians overrun Aleppo and restore it in-full to Syrian government control. As the Russian ground troops land, more Russian warplanes and military equipment have been sent to the Kweires Airbase near Al Safira, which was liberated by the Russians and Syrians last November. They too will be used in the upcoming battle for Aleppo.