The Russian parliament is discussing the ratification of a treaty with Syria that allows Russian troops to stay indefinitely in the Mideast country. Lawmakers spoke in favor of the agreement, in a sign of support for embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad, whom Moscow has backed throughout the devastating civil war. The vote is to be held later Friday.
The treaty allows Russia to keep its forces at the Hemeimeem air base in Syria’s coastal province of Latakia, Assad’s Alawite heartland, as long as it wants.
Russia launched an air campaign in Syria a year ago, reversing the tide of war and helping Assad’s forces win some key ground. Moscow says it seeks to help the Syrian army fight terrorism. Russia also has a naval base in Syria’s port of Tartus.