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Russia shows display of military force at Syria base


Russian NavyRussia has showcased the might it is currently using in Syria, days before talks aimed at devising a political settlement to the .

Warplanes took off one after another and helicopter gunships were sweeping low as a number of Moscow-based journalists were allowed into the base in the province of Latakia.

Two heavy transport planes were parked near the main terminal as carrying assault rifles patrolled.

As well as offering reporters a glimpse into Moscow’s operation in Syria, a defence ministry spokesman also revealed humanitarian supplies its planes have delivered to residents of the blockaded city of Deir al Zor.

Russia launched its air campaign in Syria in September, and since then its warplanes have flown almost 6,000 missions.

Defence ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov told the assembled reporters that Russian warplanes had flown 157 sorties hitting 579 targets in six Syrian regions over the past four days.

The pace showed no sign of letting up, judging by the number of jets taking off and landing on Wednesday.

State-of-the-art air defence weapons have been moved to the base after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane along the Syrian border in November.

Towering launch tubes and massive radar arrays of the S-400 air defence missiles could be seen at the edge of the base.

Throughout the air campaign, the Russian has said it is targeting Islamic State militants and other extremists, dismissing Western accusations it is hitting moderate rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al Assad.

Russia has also rejected claims its jets have hit civilians, insisting all casualties have been at extremist facilities away from populated areas.

However, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Wednesday that more than 1,000 civilians have been killed since Moscow’s strikes began, including more than 200 children.

Major General Konashenkov said Syrian government forces have retaken around 250 villages and towns from extremists as a result of the Russian campaign.

He added that each target is verified through multiple intelligence sources before Russian jets strike.

Across the tarmac, Russian were loading humanitarian supplies onto a Syrian Il-76 heavy transport plane to be parachuted over Deir al Zor.

The has warned that living conditions there have deteriorated significantly, as government-held areas of the city have been blockaded by extremists for over a year.

Major General Konashenkov said around 40 metric tonnes of relief supplies have been delivered to the city, parachuted in on cargo platforms provided by the Russian .

The Syrian government and the opposition are set to hold talks in the Swiss city of Geneva on Monday.

The negotiations are meant to lead to a political settlement with a new constitution and elections within 18 months, but hopes for a successful outcome are low.

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