Turkey may soon close the Bosphorus to Russian warships in an attempt to weaken the advance of Bashar al-Assad's army in Idlib and Aleppo, which is largely dependent on Russia's large-scale which provides air power and weapons to Assad’s Army, reports the Russian news outlet Novaya Gazeta.
Such actions, the newspaper suggests, will allow pro-Turkish military units in Syria to buy time to redeploy their own forces.
Russian Military expert Sergey Ishchenko warned of possible Ankara's decision to disrupt the "functioning of Russian military bases in Khmeimim and Tartus" a week ago. At the time, he suggested that Turkey might ban Russian warplanes from flying through its air space.
"It is only necessary for the Turks, at least for a while, to block the Black Sea passage for our ships. Then, the regular operation of the so-called "Syrian Express" (regular trips of Russian landing and transport ships to deliver military cargo to Syria) will be disrupted.
Nevertheless, the Syrian Army has enough armor to deter even powerful militant attacks, and retaliatory air strikes will certainly lead to strikes on Turkish checkpoints ” the expert told Novaya Gazeta.
According to the newspaper, Russia may respond to the closure of the Bosphorus by closing the Turkish-Syrian border, which will significantly complicate the supply of weapons and ammunition to opponents of the Syrian dictator.
On February 22, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey will take more decisive steps in Syria.
"Fighting is not easy for us, people are dying. We will take more decisive steps," he said, speaking in the city of Izmir. At the same time, Erdogan did not say what measures would be taken, but noted that Ankara "will not submit to the scenarios imposed by global powers."
On February 18, Turkish and Russian diplomats held talks in Moscow in an attempt to resolve the next Syrian crisis. These negotiations have not yielded results.
On February 20 at around 3 PM local time in the north-east of Syria’s Idlib province, pro-Turkish forces with support from Turkish artillery began an offensive towards the city of Saraqib, which was captured by Assad’s forces several weeks ago. Less than two hours after the start of the attack, Russian aircraft intervened. When the Syrian army’s defenses near the towns of Qminas and Nayrab were breached, Russian Su-24 bombers attacked, destroying the opposition’s armored vehicles. Syrian government forces were then able to retake the positions.
The Turkish Defense Ministry reported that two Turkish soldiers were killed and another five were wounded in an air raid, but did not specify whose air raid was responsible for the deaths. Fahrettin Altun, director of communications for the Turkish presidential administration, later clarified that Syrian aircraft had been responsible for the fatal attack. Turkey responded by “neutralizing” more than 50 Syrian soldiers, destroying two armored transports, two pickup trucks and one anti-air system, the Turkish news outlet Daily Sabah reported.
On February 21, the Russian Center for Reconciliation of Warring Parties in Syria reported that a large convoy of military equipment and trucks with ammunition were moving from Turkey to Idlib.