Russian military have started pulling their divisions out from Syrian enclave Afrin where Turkey plans to conduct a military operation against Kurds, reported Anadolu news agency.
“Dozens of Russian military are moving to Nubl and Zahra, the cities controlled by Bashar Assad. Part of the Russian contingent still remains in Afrin,” the agency said.
On Friday, January 19, during a broadcast of the Ahaber TV-channel, Minister of Defense of Turkey Nurettin Canikli acknowledged that a military operation against armed Kurdish formations had been already underway.
Earlier, on January 18, a delegation of Turkish top military officials visited Moscow. As Russian Ministry of Defense reported, head of the Russian ministry Sergey Shoygu met with Turkish Chief of Staff Hulusi Akar and Director of National Intelligence Hakan Fidan. According to the report, the officials discussed the situation in the Middle East and “other important issues of mutual interest.”
Turkey’s Military officials said that Akar also planned to meet with Russian Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov.
Turkey conducted a military operation called Euphrates Shield in the territory of Syria before. The operation was declared completed in March 2017. President of Turkey Recep Erdogan announced the start of a new anti-Kurdish operation on January 13. During a speech held at a ruling party (Justice and Development) rally at Elazig, Erdogan pledged that “terrorists will leave Manbij and Afrin or they will be eliminated.”
Damascus reacted harshly promising to shoot down all Turkish jets in the air above Syria. Deputy Foreign Minister of Syria Faisal Mekdad said that any actions of Turkish military in the area of Afrin, north-west of Syria, would be considered “an act of aggression against sovereignty of the Syrian Arab Republic.”
Previously Ankara harshly criticized the intention of the United States to form a “border protection force” in the north of Syria from the local population mostly consisting of Kurdish armed formations. As Reuters reported, the total number of the “border protection force” was expected to be approximately 30,000 fighters, and the force was supposed to be placed along the border of Turkey.
Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey Bekir Bozdag stated that the United States created “an army of terrorists” and stressed that the U.S. actions in Syria “were incompatible with friendship, cooperation or strategic partnership with Turkey.” According to him, by helping Kurdish fighters, Washington “was playing with fire,” the Turkish official said.