Russia’s parliament has unanimously granted President Vladimir Putin the right to deploy the country’s military in Syria.
According to the Kremlin, Wednesday’s vote in the upper chamber does not mean that Russian ground forces will be engaged in conflict as it refers to the use of the air force only.
Sergei Ivanov, the head of the Kremlin administration, said after the vote in the Federation Council: “The Syrian president asked the leadership of our country for military assistance.”
Russia has already been building up its military presence in Syria, where it supports Assad’s forces who are fighting ISIL millitants and Western-backed rebels.
Some media reports say Russian fighter jets have already begun air strikes in Syria. The Kremlin has declined to confirm that.
Observers in Istanbul have noted what seems to be increasing Russian naval activity of a military nature, with ships passing through the Bosphorus Straits – sparking speculation that they could be Syria bound.
The last time the Russian parliament granted Putin the right to deploy troops abroad, a technical requirement under Russian law, Moscow seized Crimea from Ukraine last year.
Wednesday’s developments follow a meeting between Putin and US President Barack Obama at the United Nations in New York.