How long have Russian troops been operating in Syria?
The Russia Today dispatch we've mentioned earlier shows significant footage of a Russian Su-24 fencer (numbered "26 white") with painted-over RuAF insignia (a red star) and registration number:
A Zvezda TV channel report shows another Su-24 ("16 white") with painted over RuAF insignia:
The same can be seen in a Rossiya 24 dispatch - a Su-24 ("05 white") with painted over RuAF insignia:
These bombers have been photographed earlier in Russia before their insignia were painded over. RF-90932 "26 white":
Photo by: Ilya Ponomarev
RF-34007, "16 white":
Photo by: Nikolay Enin
RF-90942, "05 white":
We believe that before September 30, 2014 (when the Federation Council allowed using Russian troops in Syria) preparations had been ongoing for at least a month. During this preparation phase, marines of the 810th brigade, 32 combat planes, at least one recon plane, trucks, fuel trucks, APCs, tanks, artillery pieces and helicopters were redeployed to Syria. Since at that time there were officially no Russian troops transferred to Syria, Russia only "supplying humanitarian cargo", it was required to obscure the fact the equipment belonged to the Russian army. In order to obfuscate the redeployment of Russia's military units to Syria, state media reported the building of an alleged refugee camp for 1000 people.
Simultaneously, Russian recon planes, as well as Su-24 bombers and Su-25 close air support jets performed flights over Idlib and Hama, which we mentioned earlier in this report. In order to make it impossible to officially accuse Russia of stationing RuAF jets in Syria before they officially appeared there (on September 30), it was decided to paint over the insignia as well as cover the planes with camo netting:
After our previous investigation of Russian troops in Syria we gave a lot of interviews where we told that, as we believe, Putin does not care about fighting terrorism, but his main objective in Syria is protecting Assad's regime. We said that Putin thought Syria to be another front of his rivalry with the West (which manifested in creating a "private" anti-terror coalition of Russia, Iraq, Iran and Syria). We have suggested that Russia's actions in Syria will be reported as fighting terrorism, and some strikes may target ISIS positions, but the main threat for Asad is the armed Syrian opposition, and they would be the Russian army's main target. What followed overwhelmed even us: we couldn't even imagine that opposition targets would be the first to be struck.
After Crimea's annexation and the start of the war in Eastern Ukraine, Putin mentioned several times in his interviews that the fugitive "legitimate president of Ukraine" Yanukovich had addressed him with a request for military intervention, so Russia did not exclude moving troops into Donbas to protect civilians. We are seeing similar rhetorics on Syria now: Russian officials say that the decision to use Russian troops in Syria was taken after the "legitimate president of Syria" Bashar al-Assad requested military intervention. However, 8 days before the first air strikes, pro-Kremlin media published articles saying that the reports of Russian planes in Syria were lies and a smear campaign against Putin:
A mere month ago a national TV channel "Russia 24" reported that the info on Russian troops deployment to Syria was lies for PR and money:
On September 30, everything changed and the situation has been changing rapidly ever since: Russian aircraft are bombing multiple targets in Syria, including ISIS. You can follow an interactive map, showing the RuAF air strikes.
Reminder on our plans and support for our team
As we've written earlier, we're preparing a large fundraising campaign to get the most part of our team on payroll. We stillneed to raise half of the required amount to start the campaign::