Russia has accused Turkey of military buildup on the Syrian border as it rejected claims of Moscow’s plan to establish a new airbase in the Arab country.
The rebuttal followed remarks attributed to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, suggesting Russia might be establishing a base in Qamishli.
Erdogan “expressed alarm” after 200 Russian personnel were allegedly observed strengthening the runway on the Syrian border with Turkey, the reports said.
Russia’s Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov dismissed the reports as “a complete farce.”
The general said the allegations were “an awkward attempt to provide a cover-up for the large deployment of Turkish troops to the Syrian border close to Qamishli.”
“There are no ‘new’ airbases or additional ‘jump-up bases’ for Russian military aircraft in the Syrian Arab Republic, as well as no plans to create any,” Konashenkov said on Monday.
The official said Russian fighter jets based at Hemeimeem in Syria’s coastal western province of Latakia can reach any location in the country in half an hour, “so there is no need for any additional base.”
Lt. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi of the military’s general staff said Russian warplanes have been flying between 70 and 100 sorties daily over the past few days to provide air support for the Syrian army’s operations against foreign-backed Takfiri militants.
President Vladimir Putin has said the Russian air campaign in Syria will last for as long as it is necessary, and that Moscow’s goal is to help Damascus defeat terrorists.
Moscow began airstrikes against Daesh and other terrorist groups in Syria on September 30 upon a request by the Syrian government.
The foreign-sponsored conflict in Syria, which flared in March 2011, has reportedly claimed the lives of more than 260,000 people and left over one million injured.
The UN says 12.2 million people, including more than 5.6 million children, remain in need of humanitarian assitance in Syria. The violence has also displaced 7.6 million people.