Syrian forces advancing toward the US-rebel base on the Syrian-Iraqi border have brand new Russian gear and quite possibly Russian personnel to go with it. Last Thursday the US bombed Syrian troops approaching al-Tanf. Rather than withdraw, the Syrians decided they would advance in a slightly different direction so as to outflank and isolate the main US-rebel installation in the southern Syrian desert.
Initially it was believed the Russians rejected a role in the renewed push around al-Tanf, but we now have reason to believe they may be present after all. We have been sent images documenting the Syrian advance which show some very modern Russian weapons taking part.
First there are photos of the Russian Mi-35 attack helicopter. While Syria operates the almost identical Mi-24 helicopters, the distinct non-retractable landing gear suggests this is indeed a newer Mi-35 of the Russian air force.
Next are photos showing two very modern Russian artillery systems. The TOS-1 multiple thermobaric rocket launcher and the Msta-B 152mm howitzer. These are both weapons which Syria did not posses before the start of the Russian military intervention there. These systems would be crewed by Russian-trained Syrian soldiers, or – it is rumored – by Russian crews outright. Perhaps the most likely possibility is that they’re manned by Syrian crews but with a Russian advisor or two continuing to tag along to help troubleshoot unforeseen problems.
Wide variety of uniforms (army and militia):
An older rocket artillery system in the background (BM-21 Grad):
Bulldozer – invaluable for digging in:
No natural cover in the desert:
According to our source on the ground, Syrian forces are just 20 km from al-Tanf.