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Jul 26, 10:38 AM EDT

Russia says 4 military police battalions deployed to Syria


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MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia's defense minister says four battalions of Russian military police are currently deployed in safe zones in Syria.

Russia and Iran, both supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and Turkey, which backs rebels fighting Syrian government forces, agreed on a plan in May to establish four "de-escalation" zones in Syria, pressing Assad's air force to halt flights over designated areas across the war-torn country.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told Russian news agencies on Wednesday that the four battalions are now operating in the safe zones. The chief of the Russian General Staff last week mentioned military police in just one zone and did not give any numbers.

Russia has supported Assad's offensive against Islamic State militants since 2015, and sent the first battalion of military police to Syria in December.

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