The Kremlin has quietly deployed a secret elite force of Russian soldiers in Syria, where Russia is fighting the rebels, according to reports.
The move to recruit Russian special forces into Syria was first reported by The Washington Post.
The report said that the military is known as the ‘Dirty Five’, a reference to the Soviet secret military unit that developed and deployed sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles.
The Pentagon says it is “very concerned” by reports that Russia has begun to arm Syrian rebels.
The US has not ruled out sending more special forces to Syria to aid the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, but the White House says it has not authorised military action against the Syrian government.
“We don’t have a clear idea of what the Russians are doing in Syria,” Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said on Tuesday.
“We’re aware of the reports of Russian activity.
We’re aware that there’s a lot of talk of Russian support for opposition groups.”‘
Russian arms will help us crush ISIS’ Russia has also repeatedly said that it will support the US and its allies in the region against the so-called Islamic State (IS) group.
On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the government had not “received any proposal” from Washington to use Russian airpower against the extremists.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has also threatened to shoot down US planes in the air.
Russian air strikes on IS positions in Syria have caused civilian casualties, including at least 12 people who were killed by a US B-2 bomber in May, the first time that Russia had conducted such an attack.
Moscow has also been accused of shooting down Syrian warplanes in recent months, with at least one pilot captured and a Russian fighter jet destroyed.