Sources tell Reuters that Russian forces have begun participating in military operations in Syria in support of government troops. Deborah Gembara reports.
Moscow on Tuesday confirmed suspicion about its growing presence in Syria. Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova. "Our country has long been supplying arms and military equipment to Syria in accordance with bilateral contracts. There are also Russian military experts in Syria who are instructing Syrians on how to use the military systems being delivered." This first official confirmation that Russia has boots on the ground in Syria -- assisting President Bashar al Assad's forces. The news had western powers on edge. Damascus is a sticking point for the U.S. which has called for Assad's removal. U.S. Secretary John Kerry warned his Russian counterpart that Moscow's actions could "fan violence." And in Prague, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called Russia's presence worrying. (SOUNDBITE) (English) NATO SECRETARY GENERAL, JENS STOLTENBERG, SAYING: "That will not contribute to solving the conflict. I think it is important to now support all efforts to find a political solution to the conflict in Syria. Moscow has so far offered no details about the the exact scale and scope of its military operation inside Syria.