- The Washington Times - Friday, September 18, 2015

Russia has begun moving military aircraft into war-torn Syria, defense officials claim, raising concerns Moscow may imminently launch strikes to support the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad

Senior U.S. officials said Friday that they believe Russia has taken the next step toward helping Mr. Assad tackle opposition fighters in the regions who have rallied against the Syrian government for 4½ years without direct military support of allies in the Kremlin.

Russia has moved its first tactical fighter jets to a base in Syria, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday, citing the U.S. Department of Defense. Additional details were not immediately made available by the paper.

Unnamed senior American officials added to an NBC News report on Friday that the Pentagon believes four Russian attack helicopters and four Russian transport helicopters have arrived in Syria since Thursday. Two U.S. officials told Reuters on condition of anonymity that they believe no fewer than four Russian jets have arrived at a base in Latakia, an Assad regime stronghold. 

Reports of the suspected movement of military aircraft from Russia to Syria surfaced not long after the Pentagon confirmed that Defense Secretary Ashton Carter had spoken with his counterpart in the Kremlin, Sergei Shoigu. 

Peter Cook, the Pentagon press secretary, said in a statement that the discussion was “constructive” and that the two officials “talked about areas where the United States and Russia’s perspectives overlap, and areas of divergence.”

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