UPDATE March 20, 13:10 ET Earlier today, Reuters reported that YPG spokesperson Rêdûr Xelîl had said that Russia was setting up a military base in northern Syria. The Russian defence ministry later denied that claim. It should be noted that there is no mention of a Russian military base in the English version of the YPG statement that was published online, just that Russian military units were present in the area.
Russia troops are in the Efrîn area of northwestern Syria and will be training YPG fighters as part of an agreement reached March 19, YPG spokesperson Rêdûr Xelîl said on March 20, Reuters reported.
In a statement, Xelil told Reuters that Russian troops had already arrived in Efrîn and that Russian forces were in Jandaris district (Cindirêsê in Kurdish).
Images of a number of Russian vehicles purportedly in the area were shared on social media on March 20.
“The presence of the Russian army units in the Jandaris district of the Afrin Canton has taken place as a result of an agreement between our forces and the Russian army.
“The agreement was based in the framework of cooperation in the fight against terrorism and on the military training of our fighters by the Russian army.
“We have direct relations with Russia.”
Xelîl said the agreement came into force on March 20.
Russia denies base claim?
“There are no plans to create new Russian military bases on the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic,” the Russian Defense Ministry’s press service said, Sputnik News reported. TASS later confirmed the statement.
According to Sputnik, the ministry said a branch of the Russian Centre for Reconciliation of Opposing Sides will open near Afrin.