Russia denied Friday it had placed its advanced S-400 missile defense system in Syria, the Russian news agency Tass reported. While Moscow has deployed a lot of military equipment to Syria since it began airstrikes at the start of October, the S-400 being deployed would demonstrate a change in Russia’s defense plans in the country.
The S-400 is designed to intercept advanced missiles and aircraft. Russia claims its targets in Syria are the Islamic State group and Syrian rebels, neither of which are in possession of aircraft or missiles. The only threat to Russian dominance in the region is the U.S., which is continuing to conduct airstrikes against ISIS alongside Moscow’s warplanes.
"Separate reports about our air base that regularly appear in foreign newspapers and publications are really bewildering if not funny. I would like to believe that these tales are being published for the purpose of self-advertising," Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov told foreign journalists Friday.
Rumors of the S-400 being in Syria first surfaced after a renowned aviation blog kept by former Italian air force pilot David Cenciotti examined pictures published by the Russian Ministry of Defense, which he said showed the powerful defense system.
Konashenkov denied the reports while showing foreign journalists around Hmeymim air base in Syria. Around 50 reporters from Britain, France, China, South Korea, Italy, Spain and Greece are staying at the base.
"Prior to frightening the British and the rest of the world with our S-400 anti-aircraft missile system, which is deployed in Syria, they ought to have read either the Wikipedia or the Russian Defense Ministry website to get an idea of what it looks like," the general explained. “Then it would have been clear to the editors of this publication how many elements this system has and what area would have been required for its deployment."