Experts believe move will now pave the way for Moscow to make Hmeimim airbase permanent
Rebel fighters arrive in Idlib from Qudssaya and al-Hamah. Pic/AFP
Moscow: Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday approved a law ratifying Mos-cow's deal with Syria to deploy its forces in the country indefinitely, in a move seen as firming their long-term presence.
The agreement — signed between Moscow and Damascus in August 2015 — allowed Russia to establish its Hmeimim airbase to launch operations in support of President Bashar al-Assad's forces.
Putin's official signing off on the pact, which lasts for an "indefinite" period, is a legal move that many believe will now pave the way for Moscow to make the base permanent.
The ratification of the deal, which follows votes by both Russia's parliament and senate, comes as tensions with the West spike over Russia's bombing of rebel-held, besieged eastern Aleppo.
Putin in August asked lawmakers to ratify the deal, which grants Russian forces immunity from prosecution in Syria.
The latest assault by government forces in Aleppo with the support of Russian airpower has sparked Western accusations of potential war crimes.
As relations have slumped, the Kremlin has bolstered its forces in Syria, and on Monday, announced it will also turn its Soviet-era naval facility in the country into a permanent base.
Moscow is currently believed to have some 4,000 personnel stationed at Hmeimim, deep in government-held territory, along with several dozen warplanes.
At least 17 people, most of them rebels, were killed in a car blast at an opposition checkpoint in Aleppo, a monitor said. The blast hit near the town of Azaz, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said yesterday, adding that 14 of the dead were rebel fighters. It was unclear if the three others among the dead were civilians or rebels.