WASHINGTON — The United States on Tuesday moved to head off preparations for a suspected Russian military buildup in Syria as Bulgaria agreed to an appeal from the Obama administration to shut its airspace to Russian transport planes. The planes’ destination was the Syrian port city of Latakia.
The administration has also asked Greece to close its airspace to the Russian flights, Greek and American officials said, but Greece has not publicly responded to the request.
The administration’s concerns were fueled last week by intelligence reports indicating that Russia appeared to be making preparations to deploy advisers and military personnel to an airfield south of Latakia and might also bring in aircraft and fly airstrikes from there. Those preparations included the delivery of prefabricated housing for as many as 1,000 personnel and a portable air traffic control station to the airfield.
Over the weekend, two giant Russian Condor transport planes ferried more supplies and equipment from an air base in southern Russia across Iran and Iraq to Latakia, according to an American official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official was discussing intelligence reports.
A Russian troop transport plane, probably an Ilyushin model, also landed at the same airfield in Latakia over the weekend. That aircraft, which flew over Greece and Bulgaria, is believed to have carried Russian military personnel.
“They’re clearly establishing some sort of forward operating base,” the American official said.
Full article: U.S. Moves to Block Russian Military Buildup in Syria (NY Times)