Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday strongly defended Moscow's military assistance to the Syrian government, saying it's impossible to defeat the Islamic State group without cooperating with Damascus.
Putin's statement comes amid the signs of an ongoing Russian military buildup in Syria, which the US says signals Moscow's intention to set up an air base there. Speaking at a meeting of heads of states at a Moscow-dominated security alliance of ex-Soviet nations in Tajikistan, Putin urged other nations to follow Russia's example and offer military support to Syrian President Bashar Assad's government. "We are supporting the government of Syria in the fight against a terrorist aggression, are offering and will continue to offer it necessary military-technical assistance," Putin said in televised remarks. "Without an active participation of the Syrian authorities and the military, it would be impossible to expel the terrorists from that country and the region as a whole, and to protect the multi-ethnic and multi-confessional Syrian people from destruction."