Military Capabilities

Russia sets up Palmyra base

11 May 2016
A Russian BTR-80 APC is seen in front of Fakhr-al-Din al-Maani Castle on the outskirts of the central Syrian city of Tadmur and the ancient ruined city of Palmyra on 14 April. Source: PA Photos

Russian ground forces have set up a forward operating base in the central Syrian city of Tadmur, the home of the ancient ruins of Palmyra, and installed an air-defence system to protect the site.

A video released by the AFP news agency on 7 May showed the Russian base has been built just to the west of the city, with Fakhr-al-Din al-Maani Castle less than 1.5 km further to the west, and the ruins to the south.

The base is secured by a high chain-link fence topped with razor wire and has prefabricated container buildings, large tents for equipment maintenance, a field kitchen, and satellite communications dishes. A Russian flag could be seen flying inside the base.

A Pantsyr-S1 air-defence system was seen in the footage as well as at least three BTR-82A and three BTR-80 armoured personnel carriers (APCs), suggesting a Russian combat unit has been deployed to the base.

Russia previously announced that it had sent mine-clearance personnel to the area to help clear the improvised explosive devices left behind by the Islamic State fighters who retreated from Tadmur/Palmyra in March.

Russia continues to maintain a strong military presence in Syria's central desert region, with attack helicopters based at both Al-Shayrat and Tiyas (T-4) air bases. These helicopters were seen escorting a large convoy of dignities and journalists to attend a concert at Palmyra's amphitheatre on 6 May.

These helicopters are supporting ongoing Syrian operations against the Islamic State in the region. At the start of May local media reported that units from Syria's elite Tiger Force began advancing into the Arak gas field, which is 20 km west of Al-Sukhanah on the highway running from Tadmur to Dayr al-Zawr.

Video footage has shown formations of between three and seven Russian attack helicopters launching strikes along this road in a bid to break the siege of Dayr al-Zawr city.

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