Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday stated that reports about Russian military units withdrawing from the Kurdish city of Afrin in northwestern Syria had been denied.
“These reports have been denied,” Lavrov said during a news conference at United Nations headquarters in New York. He did not specify who had denied them.
On Friday, Anadolu Turkish-state agency reported that Moscow has started withdrawing its troops in Afrin ahead of Turkey’s operation to the area.
“Some of the Russian security assets have reached Nubl and Zahra towns, on the outskirts of Afrin, which were currently held by the Assad regime,” the agency reported.
In the past few days, Turkey has repeatedly bombarded the Kurdish city, targeting People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Kurdish force that Ankara links them with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
PKK is labeled as a 'terrorist' organization by Turkey, the EU, and the US.
Increasing its threats of staging an incursion into the region of Afrin in northwestern Syria, Turkey on Friday sent bus-loads of Free Syrian Army (FSA) militants into the town of Azaz, east of the Kurdish city, in preparation of an imminent invasion.
The privately-owned Dogan new agency wired images and video of the Turkish-backed Islamist militants carried in at least 20 buses from the Kilis province into Syria.
Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli sounded determined to proceed with plans his government long insisted on, despite objection from Washington, the Syrian Kurds' primary military ally.
Canikli even announced a "de facto launch" of an operation aimed at Afrin.
He said comments by the US State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert were "void and meaningless."
“We would call on, certainly, the Turks not to take any action, like invading Afrin,” Heather had earlier said in response to a question from Kurdistan 24.