Russia sends anti-aircraft missiles to protect Syria strike jets
Russia has sent anti-aircraft missiles to Syria to safeguard its jets involved in air strikes against militants.
Colonel General Viktor Bondarev, commander of the Russian Air Force, told the daily Komsomolskaya Pravda that Russia's fighter jets could be attacked or hijacked while on their missions. He did not specify the type of missiles Russia provided.
Russia has been carrying out air strikes on Islamic State (IS) fighters in Syria since the end of September at the request of long-term ally President Bashar Assad.
But Russian officials insist that the military involvement in Syria, which has been embroiled in a civil war since 2011, will be limited to an air force operation.
Col Gen Bondarev said: "There can be different emergencies, such as hijacking the jet on the territory of a neighbouring country or an attack on it. We should be prepared for that."
Russia and Western nations have been engaged in intense diplomatic talks in the past few weeks, aiming to bring about a political settlement in Syria, which has been ravaged by a civil war since 2011 that has killed 250,000 people and forced millions to flee.
A Russian deputy foreign minister said earlier this week that Moscow was aiming to host a round of talks between Syrian officials and opposition leaders next week. He said the Syrian government had agreed to participate but it was unclear which opposition groups might attend.