Russia will consider any request from the embattled Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad to send its troops to fight Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the Kremlin said on Friday.
With concerns already growing over Russia’s military presence in war-torn Syria, the comments are one of the clearest indications to date that troop deployments in Syria may be imminent.
“If there is a request then, within the framework of bilateral contact and two-way dialogue, it will, of course, be discussed and considered,” said Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
Western officials have criticised Moscow — which has been a key international backer of Assad — in recent weeks for an apparent military build-up in Syria they say could further prolong the country’s four-year conflict.
Russia has denied the presence of any additional forces, although it admits it is supplying Assad with significant military and technical support. It has refused to rule out air strikes or troop deployments in Syria, where it has a key Mediterranean naval base.