Russian officials have confirmed that three troops were wounded Tuesday in an attack by Turkish proxy militias in northwestern Syria.
“On December 29, at 15.45, during the security operation related to the withdrawal of the Turkish observation post in the area of the Trumba settlement in the southeastern part of the Idlib de-escalation zone, an armored personnel carrier of the Russian military police BTR-82A was fired upon from an anti-tank missile system from the territory under the control of the pro-Turkish bandit formations. Three Russian servicemen were slightly injured,” Rear Admiral Vyacheslav Sytnik, the chief of the Russian military’s Reconciliation Center in Syria said.
Admiral Sytnik said that the injuries to the Russian troops weren’t life-threatening, although the troops were all evacuated to a military hospital where they were treated.
Russia and Turkey have backed opposing sides in the ongoing Syrian civil war. While Russia has been a long-time ally and supporter of the regime of President Bashar Assad, the Turkish government has been a supporter of several opposition groups. Russian airstrikes have been carried out indiscriminately hitting both civilians and Turkish troops.
Turkey has sent forces across its border into Syria to stop Syrian regime troops from retaking the northern area around Idlib and to prevent a further wave of refugees from entering its southern borders. Turkey already houses about 3.5 million Syrian refugees.
Compounding matters are the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that are led by the United States. The Turks consider the SDF, which is mostly comprised of Kurds, to be part of Kurdistan’s Workers’ Party (PKK). PKK has been outlawed in Turkey as a terrorist organization.
In March, with tensions rising, Russia and Turkey agreed to a ceasefire. The agreement was supposed to stop the fighting between the opposing forces in and around Idlib.
The two sides had agreed to establish a secure corridor, six kilometers to the north and six to the south of the strategic M4 highway, and hold joint patrols along it. The highway runs east to west through Idlib.
However, in late October, a Russian airstrike took out dozens of Turkish-proxy rebel fighters in northwest Syria marking a significant escalation of hostilities. That strike killed about 35 fighters and wounded more than 50. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a U.K.-based watchdog of the Syrian civil war, puts the death toll at 78 with many more wounded.
The strike was considered “a message” from Moscow to Ankara over Turkish involvement in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Meanwhile, the Russians are pouring troops into northeast Syria in an effort to dislodge Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighters from the area. YPG is the main group within SDF.