By Lee Bullen
This is the moment Russian troops carry out a baffling training day with elite special operations forces in Syria.
Russian squads joined forces with members of the Arab state’s 25th Special Mission Forces Division, nicknamed the Tigers.
The exercise – staged in the Syrian Arab Republic (SAR) – showed off an array of curious techniques that might have seemed more at home in a Mad Max movie.
At one point in the official footage, a Syrian soldier slides head first down a zip wire with two national flags streaming behind him.
Another clip shows two-man motorcycle assault teams speeding out of a helicopter with the pillion passengers kneeling on the seat taking aim with an assault rifle.
Other edits show troops jumping through hoops of fire like a circus act.
The Russian MoD said on June 14: “The ‘Tigers’ Special Forces Division held joint exercises with the Russian unit of troops in the Syrian Arab Republic (SAR).
“Helicopters, fighter jets and combat crews on motorcycles were involved in the exercises.
“The ‘Tigers’ Special Forces Division is considered one of the most combat-ready in the Syrian army.”
We contacted Russian and Ukrainian officials for comment but had not received a reply at the time of writing.
Russian troops invaded Ukraine on February 24 in what the Kremlin is still calling a “special military operation.” June 15 marks the 112th day of the campaign.
The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported that between February 24 and June 15, Russia had lost 32,750 personnel, 1,440 tanks, 3,528 armored fighting vehicles, 722 pieces of artillery, 230 multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS), 97 anti-aircraft units, 213 warplanes, 179 helicopters, 2,485 motor vehicles and fuel tankers, 13 boats, 591 unmanned aerial vehicles, 55 special equipment units and 129 cruise missiles were shot down.
All the bridges to the besieged Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk have reportedly been destroyed, the local governor, Serhiy Haidai, has said. Ukrainian forces there are now cut off from any possible retreat and fierce street-to-street fighting is taking place in the city, which has been the focus of Russian artillery fire for weeks.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Russian attacks on the cities of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk has turned them into “dead cities.” An aide to President Zelenskyy has said that Ukraine is losing up to 200 troops a day.
President Zelenskyy has asked for additional weapons from Ukraine’s allies. The United Kingdom and the United States have said they are sending long-range missile systems to Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned of more attacks in Ukraine if the West sends long-range weapons.
Ukrainian officials have said that weapons are not arriving fast enough. An adviser to President Zelenskyy, Mykhailo Podolyak, has said that to end the war, they need “1,000 howitzers caliber 155 mm; 300 MLRS; 500 tanks; 2000 armored vehicles; 1,000 drones”.
The European Parliament has adopted a resolution recommending that the European Union grant Ukraine the status of candidate country for EU membership. On June 8, 438 members of the parliament voted in favor of the resolution, with 65 voting against and 94 abstaining.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said that Turkey has raised legitimate concerns in its opposition to Sweden and Finland joining the alliance and that talks to find a solution would continue.
In related news, the first civilian corridor out of the encircled city of Sievierodonetsk should, in theory, be open.
It is not clear if Russia has halted its attacks in the key eastern city to allow for evacuation, and hundreds of civilians are said to be trapped in a huge chemical plant.
The Russian army has said that evacuated civilians will be transported to separatist-controlled areas of Luhansk Oblast.
But skeptics are pointing out that previous humanitarian corridors attempted in Ukraine have struggled to stay open.
Russian forces now control most of Sievierodonetsk after a month of intense combat, according to British military intelligence.
Meanwhile, NATO ministers are in Brussels for talks as Russia’s military advances in the Donbas region prompt pleas from Ukrainian officials for more Western weapons.
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