The Russian Embassy in Damascus said on Twitter on June 3 that a “second batch” of advanced MiG-29 fighter jets were handed over to the Syrian Arab Army “within the framework of defense cooperation” and were already flying missions. The handover ceremony for “advanced and modernized MiG-29 fighter jets” was held at Russia’s Hmeimim air base in western Latakia Province and the planes would fly missions over Syria starting on June 1. Russia, which has backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with air power, and the Syrian government, have been accused by Western states, UN investigators, and human rights groups of indiscriminate bombing of civilians and possible war crimes during the country’s nine-year civil war.
#SYRIA | Syrian Arab Army received the second batch of advanced MiG-29 fighter jets from #Russia – in the framework of military & technical cooperation between our countries. Syrian already begin to carry out missions on those planes | https://t.co/APPLjGzRAU | #SAA #????? #????? pic.twitter.com/QJOmyqO2WS
— Russian Embassy, Syria (@RusEmbSyria) June 3, 2020
A UN report earlier this month estimated the number of Russian mercenaries at between 800 and 1,200. Moscow has denied the Russian state is responsible for any deployments of the Vagner group and denied sending aircraft to Libya. The LNA has denied links to the aircraft, although it says it has refurbished some old Libyan planes and is preparing a new air campaign. But on June 3, an LNA military reported that warplanes had struck near Gharyan, south of Tripoli, in the first acknowledged use of warplanes by eastern forces since Washington said Russia had supplied the new MiG-29 and Su-24 jets. As of June 1, 2020, Syrian pilots will begin to carry out missions on those planes in Syrian airspace.