Russia has reportedly given new military hardware to the Syrian Army.
Citing unnamed U.S. officials, Fox News reported on May 9, 2017 that Moscow had delivered up to 21 122mm M-30 towed artillery pieces. According to the report, the “artillery pieces arrived via cargo ship in the southern port city of Tartus in the past few days.”
Commenting on the alleged artillery transfer, one U.S. official quoted in the report asserted, “This is not done by people who want to turn down the volume.”
At the time of writing, neither Moscow nor Damascus had commented on the artillery transfer allegations.
M-30s have been spotted in operation in the country earlier this year, in addition to other equipment believed to have been sent from Russia, such as modernized T-62M tanks.
SAA against IS in centarl Syria. Again 122mm howitzers M-30 + tank T-62Mhttp://t.co/32MWxbE8Dr pic.twitter.com/CNRVEe43iZ
— Yuri L (@imp_navigator) January 27, 2017
1st Mixed Artillery Battalion (1САДн) of the SAA #5thCorps, Rif #Hama. Modernized 122 mm M-30 howitzers were supplied from Russia in January pic.twitter.com/2hDaTuI0uK
— Ilya A. = Илья А. (@ain92ru) April 28, 2017
Fox News previously reported in February 2017 that Russia had delivered 50 SS-21 short-range ballistic missiles to the Syrian military. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov replied in response to questions regarding that alleged delivery, “We cannot comment on that; I have no such information.”
Russia has also reinforced its own deployment to Syria, in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The military has supposedly sent new SA-21 missiles for its S-400s based in Latakia, which, according to U.S. officials cited in the Fox report, will arrive later in the week, “doubling” the size of the previous inventory in the country.
Some time last month, Russia sent an A-50 early warning aircraft — possibly the upgraded A-50U version — to the country. The aircraft’s deployment was first revealed by Wael Al Hussaini in an image released online.
Exclusive: today the #RuAF deployed an A-50 AEW aircraft to the #Khmeimem AFB. pic.twitter.com/ffs5oTxmnS
— Wael Al Hussaini (@WaelHussaini) April 30, 2017
Subsequently, the aircraft was spotted on satellite imagery, confirming its deployment to Hmeymim airbase in Latakia. The aircraft was also visible (at 0:17) in a video from Victory Day celebrations at Hmeymim held on May 9, 2017.
Russia, together with Iran and Turkey, has sought to get warring sides in Syria to agree to establishing de-escalation zones in four sections of country that would help pave the way for political negotiations. The Syrian government has signaled it may comply with the proposal, though the opposition is vehemently against the role of Iran in drafting the proposal. Iran has deployed troops in support of the Syrian Army and helped bring militia fighters to key battlefields.
Also envisioned in the plan is an effort to dislodge extremist groups, such as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) — the latest name for al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch — and the Islamic State. HTS, which has an operational presence in many of the areas identified as possible de-escalation zones, condemned the discussions in Astana aimed at finding a political solution and has signaled it would fight anyone that attempts to dislodge it.
New HTS fatwa says agreeing with Astana is treachery & if any “criminal groups” try to enter idlib, they & whoever helps them will be fought pic.twitter.com/Zum1GBZYgA
— Ibn Nabih (@IbnNabih1) May 9, 2017
World powers are also considering options to remove the Islamic State from its former capital, Raqqa. Towards this end, the United States has championed the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Earlier this week, the United States confirmed it had approved a plan to supply the SDF with weapons, a move that annoyed NATO ally Turkey.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with his American counterpart, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, earlier on May 10, 2017 and is due to meet American President Donald Trump thereafter.
BREAKING: Russian foreign minister arrives at White House to meet Trump – @AFP— Conflict News (@Conflicts) May 10, 2017
UPDATE: This post has been updated to reflect images of the M-30 in use by Syrian forces earlier this year.