Following a massive earthquake that left hundreds injured and about 1,700 dead, Russian emergency workers will travel to Syria and Turkey, the Kremlin announced on Monday.
President Vladimir Putin telephoned Bashar al-Assad of Syria and Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey to offer his condolences for the loss of life and destruction caused by the magnitude 7.8 earthquake, the largest to hit Turkey this century.
Russian rescue forces could be sent to Turkey and Syria, according to Putin.
“Bashar al-Assad gratefully accepted this offer, and in the coming hours rescuers of the Russian emergencies ministry will fly to Syria,” the Kremlin said in a statement.
“The Turkish president warmly thanked Vladimir Putin for such a prompt and sincere reaction and said that he was giving instructions to the competent authorities of the country to accept the help of Russian rescuers,” it said.
Russia said it had emergency rescue Ilyushin-76 planes on standby to fly to the two countries. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu ordered Russian forces in Syria to help with the rescue effort.
Russia backed Assad in Syria’s civil war, launching a military campaign that helped turn the tide of the conflict in his favour even though the West had called for the Syrian leader to go.
Russia has a naval base in Tartus, on the Syrian coast, and operates the Khmeimim air base north of Tartus.
Russia’s defense ministry said its military facilities in Syria had not been damaged by the earthquake.