Tank and cannon commandants decorated in Moscow despite Kremlin previously insisting merely air force took part in fighting

Vladimir Putin has awarded medals to tank and artillery commandants at a ceremony for soldiers who oppose in Syria, apparently contradicting the Kremlins previous insistence that merely its air force was in combat there.

At a rite to accolade veterans of the Syria campaign in the Kremlin on Thursday, the Russian president awarded the order of St George in the fourth degree to Maj Gen Yury Yarovitsky, deputy commander of the 1st tank army of the western military district, Kommersant newspaper reported.

Participants told the Kommersant journalist Andrei Kolesnikov, a Putin biographer known for his access to the president, that at least five Russian tanks were in Syria and were operated by Russian crews. According to a list of Syria awardings published by the state news agency Tass, Putin also decorated the deputy commander of the 120 th cannon brigades howitzer battalion.

The Kremlin has now been said that merely its air units were fighting in Syria, although other weapons systems had been deployed there to protect its air and naval basis. It has also said Russian ground equipment was sold to the Bashar al-Assad regime through existing arms contracts.

Activists have published photographic and video evidence indicating Russian armor was fighting alongside Assads forces-out, including tanks and Msta-B howitzers. The Moscow-based Conflict Intelligence Team, which has analyse Russian troops clandestine operations in eastern Ukraine and Syria, reported that maps presented by the defence ministry at a November briefing showed the 120 th cannon brigade deployed near Homs, which is far from Russias Latakia airbase.

There wasnt any infantry charging with rifles, but there was support by[ Russian] equipment, howitzers, tanks and maybe infantry struggle vehicles, Ruslan Leviev of the CIT said.

In a amaze announcement on Monday, Putin said he was pulling most of Russias forces-out out of Syria as their mission had been completed. At the awards ceremony in the Kremlin, he said the number of military flights in Syria had decreased from 60 -8 0 to 20 -3 0 a day and the task force there had become loss-making since a ceasefire came into consequence earlier this month.

Moscow has from the beginning insisted it was targeting Islamic terrorists in Syria, while western media and governments have said the majority of its airstrikes were carried out against moderate rebels opposing Assads forces-out.

Speaking on the sidelines of a defence ministry briefing on the Syria ceasefire on Friday, spokesman Igor Konashenkov called reports that Russia had mounted a ground operation in Syria total stupidity. He said Yarovitsky had served in Syria as a military advisor, teaching Syrian crews how to operate Russian-made equipment.

Our humen were there as consultants our tanks were not. But the Syrians have a lot of tanks, he said.

Konashenkov confirmed that five Russian soldiers had died in Syria during the Russian campaign, but declined to comment on Islamic Country claim that another five soldiers had been killed near Palmyra in recent days.

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