Russian military police arrived in the strategic Syrian city of Kobani on Wednesday as Moscow warned Kurdish YPG forces that they face further armed conflict with Turkey if they fail to withdraw from Syria’s entire northeastern border.
Russia’s warning came a day after it struck an accord with Turkey calling for the complete pullout of the YPG fighters, which were once U.S. allies but which Ankara calls terrorists.
The police arrival in Kobani marked the start of a period when Russian and Syrian security forces will oversee the removal of YPG fighters at least 30 km into Syria, under the deal struck by presidents Vladimir Putin and Tayyip Erdogan.
A complete pullout of the YPG would mark a victory for Mr. Erdogan, who launched a cross-border offensive on October 9 to drive the Syrian Kurdish militia from the border and create a “safe zone” for the return of Syrian refugees.
Russia’s Defence Ministry, quoted by TASS news agency, said the police would help facilitate the YPG withdrawal from Kobani, a border city to the west of Turkey’s military operations. It was vacated by U.S. troops after President Donald Trump’s abrupt decision this month to pull out.
Kobani is of special significance to the Kurdish fighters, who fought off Islamic State militants trying to seize the city in 2014-15 in one of the fiercest battles of Syria’s civil war.