Amid reports of further standoffs between American and Russian troops in northeast Syria, outside of the city of Derik near the Turkish and Iraqi borders, comes more evidence that the Russians are trying to beef up their military presence in the area by building a base in the Kurdish-controlled territory.

The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), reported that Russian forces are building a base in Qasir Dib, a Kurdish village outside of al-Malikiyah near the Turkish border. Russian soldiers installed radar and brought 12 armored vehicles to the area, the Observatory said. 

Nishan Mohammad, one local freelance reporter said in an interview with Voice of America, “I spoke with people who […] confirmed that the Russians had expressed a desire to build a military base in the village.”

A power vacuum was formed when the United States began pulling out of northeast Syria. The Turkish military then began an offensive in October of last year, attacking the SDF which is heavily manned by Kurdish troops. The Russians and Syrian government troops, then rushed into the region as well, trying to assert influence. 

The area around al-Malikiyah sees a confusing and potentially volatile mix of American, Russian, and Turkish military activity. The Turks and Russians have conducted joint patrols in the area, while American and Russian troops frequently block each other’s patrols. Another such standoff occurred on June 3, the second in two days.

In each instance, Russian patrols came face-to-face with American troops who have a base in the area. The Russians entered the area and were attempting to access the road to Derik. American troops blocked the road and local traffic was held up for hours. Two helicopters, one Russian and one American, were circling above the area monitoring the situation.

After the U.S. troops stopped the Russians from gaining access to Derik, the Russians were forced to return to their base in Qamishli; they share the base with Syrian government troops.

Another local news source reported that the day prior, villagers from Derik blocked the road when Russian troops approached. Then American forces deployed to another crossroads nearby.