Russia Sends Missile Systems to Syria to Stop Its Jets Being Hijacked
Russia's air force chief says Moscow has sent anti-aircraft missile systems to Syria to back its campaign of air strikes in the country.
Viktor Bondarev said in an interview published by a Russian newspaper on Thursday that the air-defence systems would be used to prevent potential air attacks on its troops in Syria, who are backing government forces against opposition groups.
Bondarev told the Kosmsomolskaya Pravda paper that Russia "took into account every possible threat" when making the decision to deploy the weapons.
"There could be various force majeur situations. Let us imagine a military plane is hijacked and taken to a neighbouring country and air strikes are aimed at us. And we have to be ready for this," he said.
Bondarev said Russia has "more than 50 planes and helicopters" in Syria.
The statement came amid Moscow's efforts to restart peace talks between the Syrian government and opposition groups.
The Russian news agency Sputnik reported on Thursday that the Free Syrian Army (FSA), a main umbrella group of opposition fighters, had agreed to meet Russian officials in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates.
Sputnik quoted Mahmoud al-Adandi, the coordinator of the dialogue, as saying that the FSA delegation, comprised of representatives from 28 brigades, would hold talks with Russian foreign and defence ministry officials.
Adandi also reportedly said that the meeting would discuss the creation of a joint operating centre to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and al-Nusra Front, a Syrian armed opposition group.