Russia pledges military support to Syria

Russian president Vladimir Putin has pledged military support for President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and encourages other countries to follow suit

Russian President Vladimir Putin has pledged continued military support for Syria's Bashar al-Assad, international media reports claim.

Putin urged other countries to join Russia in sending "military-technical assistance" to Assad, and he said that the influx of refugees to Europe would have been "even bigger" without Russian support for Syria's government.

Speaking at a defence summit in Tajikistan, Putin said on Tuesday: "We support the government of Syria… in countering the terrorist aggression.

He added that the situation in Syria would have been "worse than in Libya" had Russia not been supporting its leadership.

The BBC explains that the US and its Western allies oppose President Assad, and say that backing him risks prolonging the conflict, but Moscow has been Assad’s key ally during the bloody civil war, which began in 2011. The war between Assad's regime and various rebel groups has so far killed at least 240,000 people and displaced millions.

The BBC reports that US officials fear that the stepped-up Russian support will strengthen the Syrian government at a time when it has been losing on the battlefield and will complicate efforts to find a political solution.

Russia has denied building up their presence in Syria, although Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last week that Russia would send more help to Syria if requested.