Russian defence minister in surprise Syria visit

  • 19/06/2016
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (AAP)
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (AAP)

Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has met Russia's defence minister during a visit to the Syrian capital and discussed military cooperation, state television says.

Assad regime media did not disclose any details of Saturday's previously unannounced visit by Sergei Shoigu, who said he was sent to Damascus by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russia's Defence Ministry confirmed the visit and said Shoigu discussed military-technical cooperation between the two countries and the country's civil war.

Russia's military intervention in Syria in September helped to turn the tide of war in the Assad regime's favour after months of gains in western Syria by rebel fighters, who were aided by foreign military supplies including US-made anti-tank missiles.

Russia, which has been intensively bombing opposition-held areas in Syria since the intervention, is blamed by the opposition and rights activists for causing thousands of civilian deaths and targeting hospitals, schools and infrastructure in what they say are indiscriminate attacks.

Washington and some other Western countries that have called on Assad to step down accuse Russia of focusing mostly on strikes against the moderate so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) and less on attacking hardline Islamic State militants.