The Russians have reportedly reinforced positions around Bashar al-Assad’s stronghold of Latakia in western Syria with at least seven T90 tanks and artillery at the town’s airfield.
The United States believes Russia intends to establish what it calls a “forward operating air base” there.
Russia has had a few hundred soldiers stationed there for some time, but in the last week two flights a day have been flying in supplies and personnel. However Moscow denies it is deploying ground forces.
“Certainly, there were military supplies, they are ongoing and they will continue. They are inevitably accompanied by Russian specialists, who help to adjust the equipment, to train Syrian personnel how to use this weaponry and there is no mystery or secret about it,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Elsewhere in the hotly contested Damascus suburb of Zabadani there were reports of 10 barrel bombs being dropped by government jets on opposition-held areas, with Syrian army units advancing alongside Hezbollah fighters.