Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, third left, visits the Hemeimeem air base in Syria, Saturday, June 18, 2016. 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: Russia has put forth the unprecedented suggestion of deploying ground troops in Syria for the first time since the Russian Air Force joined the Syrian war last September in an effort to bolster its ally Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.

The offer, submitted to the UN for approval, would be the first deployment of Russian military personnel outside the Hmaymeem military base on the Syrian coast.

The troops would be used to support government troops currently fighting in Aleppo, but it is not clear how many Russian boots would be sent.

Their main focus would be to man military checkpoints, surveillance centres and intelligence units on the Castello Road at the entrance of the ancient city.

Aleppo, once coined the industrial capital of Syria, is now largely in ruins, as the brunt of the Syrian war has been focused on the city which has been divided between government and opposition forces since 2012.

Opposition forces are currently fighting to break a government-imposed siege on the city aimed at choking out the last remaining rebel forces.

Russia wants its troops to control the humanitarian corridors, bringing in UN aid to both rebel-held eastern Aleppo and government-controlled western Aleppo.

The Syrian opposition is against the proposal. It wants aid to come in through the Ramouseh district in southwest Aleppo which is controlled by the Free Syrian Army.

When Russia joined the war in September, it promised its mission would be short and swift, but a call for ground troops signals a more entrenching position in the country.

With the support of Russian war planes, Syrian government troops were able to retake the ancient city of Palmyra from Daesh, along with 12,000 square metres of countryside in Latakia, Aleppo and Hama.

While Russia said its entry in the war was to defeat Daesh, it has largely focused its efforts on striking Al Nusra Front and other Turkish-backed rebel groups who, in their view, are terrorists.

Moscow has helped facilitate supervised talks between the Syrian army and Kurdish militias in Al Hasaka last week. They were also involved in securing a deal for rebels to evacuate the strategic town of Daraya, south of Damascus.

The Russians have also been heavily involved in revamping and upgrading the military airports of Hmaymeem on the Syrian coast, T4 in Palmyra, and Kuweires, all three of which have been put at the disposal of the Russian Army.

All three have been placed under the disposal of the Russian Army. President Vladimir Putin announced his decision to put full weight behind the government in Damascus during his address at the UN General Assembly last September.

In October he gave a televised address, saying that the operations have been planned in advance, as early as March 2015.

He added that his goal in Syria was “stabilising the legitimate power” and “creating conditions for political compromise”.

His foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, has been heavily involved in brokering Syrian peace talks in Geneva since last January.

During 11 months of battle, the Russian Army has lost one jet, which was shot down by the Turkish Air Force last November.

That single incident triggered a political and economic confrontation between Moscow and Ankara, reportedly costing the Turkish economy $10 billion n lost trade with Russia.

The dispute was settled after Recep Tayyip Erdogan made an official apology earlier this summer, ahead of a high-profile meeting with Putin in St Petersburg on August 9.

As a result of that summit, the Russians started accommodating Turkish worries in Syria, namely vis-a-vis Kurdish ambitions of statehood on the Syrian-Turkish border.

Putin promised to eradicate the Kurdish project in exchange for letting his troops and the Syrian Army overrun the city of Aleppo. Last week, the Kremlin was silent over the Turkish Army’s invasion and occupation of the Syrian border city of Jarablus, where it was fully liberated from Daesh. Reciprocating, Putin severed his ties with Syrian Kurds and nudged government troops to bomb their positions in the north-eastern city of Al Hasaka.