MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia said on Thursday that some of its troops had been killed in militant attacks in Syria’s Idlib province - its first confirmation of casualties in the current round of fighting.
Attacks on Russian military positions and on Syrian government forces were continuing from a Turkish-controlled zone in the region, the Kremlin said.
“There has recently been a dangerous increase in tension and a surge of violence in Idlib,” it said. “Russian and Turkish military experts were tragically killed,” the Foreign Ministry said, without giving a number.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said there were no plans currently for President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to meet to reduce tensions in Idlib but that such a meeting could be quickly organized if needed.
Russia is a close ally of the Syrian government and agreed to a deal with Turkey in 2018 to enforce a demilitarized zone in Idlib, but the agreements have come under strain and put pressure on cooperation between Moscow and Ankara elsewhere.
The ministry said more than 1,000 militant attacks had taken place in the last two weeks of January and that hundreds of Syrian troops and civilians outside the Syrian de-escalation zone were killed and wounded.
“In the Turkish zone of responsibility, aggressive activity by these terrorist groups is continuing and these aggressive actions are directed against the Syrian republic’s armed forces and Russian military sites in Syria,” Peskov said.
Reporting by Tom Balmforth and Maria Kiselyova; Editing by Angus MacSwan