Russia sent about 300 more military police and more than 20 armoured vehicles to Syria on Friday under an accord between Ankara and Moscow that has halted Turkey’s military incursion into northeast Syria.
The deal, sealed on Tuesday by Presidents Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin, requires that Russian military police and Syrian border guards remove all Kurdish YPG militia from within 30 km (19 miles) of the Turkish border by next Tuesday.
The military police, from the southern Russian region of Chechnya, will help with the withdrawal of Kurdish forces and their weapons to 30 km of the Syrian-Turkish border, Interfax news agency reported the defence ministry as saying.
Ankara regards the YPG as a terrorist group aligned with Kurdish militants who have waged an insurgency in southeast Turkey since 1984.
Turkey launched its offensive against the YPG on Oct. 9 after President Donald Trump ordered U.S. forces out of northeast Syria. Ankara halted its assault under a U.S.-brokered ceasefire that called for a YPG withdrawal from the border area. The Putin-Erdogan deal built on and widened that agreement.
“The deployment of our forces and hardware as well as the forces and hardware of the Syrian border guards is currently taking place in the delineated zones,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
He repeated a warning that if Kurdish YPG forces did not withdraw from the border region they would be crushed by Turkey’s armed forces.
Under the terms of the deal, from next Tuesday Russian and Turkish forces will start to patrol a narrower, 10-km strip of land on the Syrian side of the border where U.S. troops had been deployed for years alongside their former Kurdish allies.
The arrival of the Russian police marks a shift in the regional balance of power less than three weeks after Trump began pulling U.S. forces out of northeast Syria.
It has also highlighted a growing security relationship between Russia, a close ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and now the dominant power inside Syria, and NATO member Turkey.