YPG and Russian flags on display during a joint press conference in Deir ez-Zor on Sunday. Photo: YPG
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Russia is coordinating military movements on the ground with Kurdish forces and overseeing the formation of a political council to govern eastern Deir ez-Zor after ISIS, according to a Russian military statement.
Russian Maj. Gen. Evgeniy Poplavsky attended a meeting with 23 delegates of the Committee for Governance of the Eastern Territories of the Euphrates in al-Salihiyah, Deir ez-Zor on Sunday, Russia’s Ministry of Defense stated.
The delegates represented “all the ethnic and religious groups residing east of the Euphrates River.”
Poplavsky told the gathering that tribal militias were completing operations against ISIS east of the river, under coordination by Russia.
Following the meeting, the Kurdish armed force YPG announced that ISIS had been defeated
in the rural areas of Deir ez-Zor province east of the Euphrates. The YPG, fighting under the SDF flag, had led the offensive with US and coalition backing.
Russia has been backing the Syrian regime, which ran a parallel military operation against ISIS across the river.
The two sides came briefly into conflict with Russia warning the United States in September that they would target the SDF if provoked.
Russia’s Ministry of Defense, however, stated on Monday that its air force carried out 672 sorties in support of tribal and Kurdish militias in Deir ez-Zor province.
Russia is also assisting local authorities to establish a governance committee in Deir ez-Zor and “create favourable conditions for returnees and to deliver humanitarian aid,” according to the military statement.
Mahmoud Nuri, co-chair of the governance committee, reportedly told Poplavsky that “Kurdish militia were always ready to ensure security for the Russian servicemen on the eastern shore of the Euphrates.”
The YPG has been a key ally of the US-led coalition in the war against ISIS in northern Syria. The United States has, however, indicated it will alter its support
for forces in Syria as the focus shifts to stabilization.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is being propped up by Russia, has indicated that he wants to take control of the quarter of the country that is under SDF control, saying he will target those who want to “divide and weaken states.”
He made his comment in November after a meeting with Ali Akbar Velayati, foreign policy advisor to Iran’s Supreme Leader.