Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has said that Russia is not intending on staying in Syria indefinitely.
In an interview with Time, Medvedev said that although the Russian military was in Syria following the demands of President Bashar al-Assad, it was not up to him to determine the exposure of the Russian army in Syria.
“We are there to fulfil a limited, specific mission that is related to protecting our national interests,” Medvedev explained, according to a transcript of the interview released by the Russian government.
As the Russian president and my colleagues have already said, and I reiterate, Russia doesn’t intend to stay in Syria forever,” he said.
Russia, which launched its first airstrikes in Syria in September last year, says it is targetting ISIS and other rebel groups opposed to Assad’s regime, which Russia regards as terrorists.
The US considers some of the rebel groups to be part of a moderate Syrian opposition and according to a White House statement, President Barack Obama asked Vladimir Putin during a phone call on Sunday to stop bombing the moderate groups.
Russia is also facing mounting pressure from the international community over the number of civilians killed during the airstrikes. Medvedev though, completely rejected those accusations on Saturday, saying it was “just not true.”
“There is no evidence of our bombing civilians, even though everyone is accusing us of this,” Medvedev told a security conference in Munich.”Russia is not trying to achieve some secret goals in Syria. We are simply trying to protect our national interests.”
One observer group estimates the number of civilians killed by Russian air strikes to be above 1,000.
Asked whether a point could be reached in which Russia would consider a longer presence in Syria, Medvedev said” “We don’t need a permanent war, and Russia would not want to become involved in anything of the kind.”
Alluding to comments he had made to German newspaper Handelsblatt, in which he said that ground operations often led to “permanent wars,” Medvedev took another jab at the US military as he mention ned the US intervention in Afghanistan, giving it as an example of how once the US starts a ground operation they “can’t pull out.”
In the interview, Medvedev also acknowledged that Russia had “a lot of economic problems to deal with,” and that the country needed to channel its resources and did not want “any confrontation anywhere.”
The civil war in Syria, which started in 2011, has claimed over 250,000 lives so far, internally displaced over seven million people and sent almost four million fleeing to Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and Europe.
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