How Can You Tell There Are Russian Troops in Syria? Just Look for Some Soldier Selfies

How Can You Tell There Are Russian Troops in Syria? Just Look for Some Soldier Selfies

By Millie Dent

Although Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied that he is sending troops to Syria, selfies taken by Russian soldiers and posted on social media are telling a different story.

Russian investigative journalist Ruslan Leviev reports that an increasing number of experienced Russian troops have been deployed to a naval maintenance facility in Tartus, along Syria’s Mediterranean coast. His source? Status updates and photos posted on Russia’s two biggest social networking sites by members of the 810th marine brigade, an infantry force in the Russian navy. 

Related: As Putin Targets Dissent, U.S. Democracy Group Banned in Russia

One photo Leviev found is of a career soldier named Mazhnikov, who appears to be at the naval facility in Syria. Another soldier, Anatoly Golota, also a member of the 810th brigade, updated his status on the Russian version of Facebook with the words, “Off to Syria :)).”

Russia has not denied that it’s been supplying weapons to the Syrian government and helping train the Syrian military. But Putin knows that combat troops are a different story.

The naval maintenance facility at Tartus is small, and in the past has been manned by just a handful of personnel. Leviev reports that the number of troops stationed at the facility is growing, and the troops are experienced contract soldiers, not draftees.

Videos uploaded to social media sites have raised concerns that Russian troops might be involved in combat inside Syria, according to an article in Foreign Policy. However, beyond the footage, which shows a Russian-made BTR-82A armored vehicle firing its gun in Syria, no other substantial evidence of active combat involving Russian troops has been found.

While the marines may or may not be directly involved in the fighting, the presence of Russian troops in Syria shows how hard Putin is pressing for a victory by the Assad regime. Now if he can just teach his soldiers how to avoid giving themselves away on social media.

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