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Russia strikes deal with Syrian Kurds to set up base

In agreement with Kurds, Russia to operate military base in Afrin and train YPG fighters in 'anti-terror' combat.

Russia is setting up a military base in northwestern Syria in agreement with the Syrian-Kurdish YPG armed group that controls the area, and will be training YPG fighters as part of the fight against "terrorism". 

YPG spokesman Redur Xelil told Reuters news agency on Monday the agreement with Russia was concluded on Sunday, and Russian troops had already arrived in Jandaris, in the northwestern region of Afrin, with troop carriers and armoured vehicles.

The move will likely anger neighbouring Turkey. Ankara views the YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is waging an insurgency inside Turkey aimed at gaining greater autonomy.

"The Russian presence ... comes in agreement between [the YPG] and the Russian forces operating in Syria in the framework of cooperation against terrorism and to help train our forces on modern warfare and to build a direct point of contact with Russian forces," Xelil said in a statement.

"It is the first [agreement] of its kind," he added.

Turkey has launched a cross-border offensive along a section of the Turkish-Syrian frontier to prevent further gains by the YPG, which controls swathes of northeastern Syria and the Afrin pocket of northwestern Syria.

Turkey's troops pushed into Syria in August of last year in efforts to push Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) away from its border and to prevent Kurdish efforts to connect its two pockets of control in Syria's north. 

YPG - or the People's Protection Units - is also allied to the United States in the fight against ISIL, and is playing a major part in the US-backed offensive against ISIL's urban stronghold of Raqqa, further east.

"The agreement came into force today," Xelil said, declining to say how many Russian troops had arrived in Jandaris, the place where the base is being established.

Jandaris has previously been shelled by Turkish forces from across the nearby frontier, Xelil added.

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