Russia has deployed its special forces formerly stationed in Ukraine to Syria in the past few weeks, The Wall Street Journal reported. The forces, which have been described as equivalent to the elite American Delta Forces, were stationed in rebel held areas of Ukraine.
"The special forces were pulled out of Ukraine and sent to Syria," said a Russian official from the ministry of defense on condition of anonymity. A Western official also confirmed the presence of the Russian elite forces, adding that they are actively involved in coordinating operations between Syrian forces and Russian jets conducting airstrikes.
However, the Russian defense ministry has refused to confirm or deny the new developments, according to Fox News. The ministry maintains that Russia has only deployed advisors to help train and advice the Syrian forces on how to use Russian made military hardware.
But according to the Russian official, some of the elite units deployed in Syria recently from Ukraine include the Zaslon Unit. This is a highly trained unit of special forces, whose main roles include protecting diplomatic assets as well as personnel.
Robert Lee, a scholar at CAST, a defense industry think tank based in Moscow, said that the presence of Russian boots in the Syrian war theatre could greatly contribute to the accuracy of Russian airstrikes.
"The use of forward ground troops to draw fire from enemy positions makes the use of air power much more effective," said Lee.
Russia and Syria have a vibrant, long-standing military relationship, according to The Australian. Russia has not spared its best military assets in its effort to shore up the Syrian regime, as a Russian warship in the Caspian Sea recently fired cruise missiles that were said to have hit ISIS targets over 900 miles away.