Russian, Iranian advisors spotted in Syria by opposition

Special to

NICOSIA — Syria has been using senior officers from Iran and Russia
to help quell the Sunni revolt against President Bashar Assad.

The Syrian opposition has identified senior Iranian and Russian officers
assigned to help the Assad regime. The Free Syrian Army said Iran and Russia
were helping the Syrian Army and security forces with tactics, technology
and operational planning.

An ID document puported to have been issued by Syria to Russian Gen. Vladimir Kojaiv.

“We warn all the snakes to go back to their dens whether it is Russia,
Iran and Iraq or Lebanon,” FSA said in a statement on Aug. 9.

FSA has identified a leading Russian officer said to have been a
consultant to the Syrian Defense Ministry. The general, said to have been killed by the rebels in Damascus, was identified as Gen. Vladimir Kojaiv. FSA released a photograph of Kojaiv as well as his identity card.

The Kremlin quickly denied the FSA report. The Russian Defense Ministry said Kojaiv retired two years ago and was living in Moscow.

“Gen. Vladimir Petrovich Kuzheyev was dismissed from military service in 2010 and is currently in good health and located in Moscow,” the Russian Defense Ministry said.

The United States has asserted that Moscow was sending senior officers and other personnel to advise the Assad regime. U.S. officials said Russian advisers were maintaining Syria’s air defense network, which in June shot down a Turkish Air Force F-4 fighter-jet.

FSA has also abducted scores of Iranians later identified as members of
the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. On Aug. 8, Iranian Foreign
Minister Ali Akbar Salehi acknowledged that former IRGC officers had been
captured by Sunni rebels.

On Aug. 5, FSA said it captured a busload of IRGC officers on a
reconnaissance operation in Damascus. For several days, the Teheran regime
insisted that the hijacked bus contained Iranian pilgrims.

“Some of those pilgrims used to be Revolutionary Guards members, some of
them are retired servicemen,” Salehi said.

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