Russia appears to be trying to fill the vacuum left by President Trump’s order to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria. The Kremlin said Tuesday that its military units have been patrolling territory in the no-man’s-land between Syrian and Turkish forces. The U.S. had maintained two military bases in the same area until Monday. A video on Twitter appeared to show a Russian journalist filming himself walking around a deserted U.S. military base in northern Syria. The man in the video was identified by a Times of London reporter as Oleg Blokhin, a Russian war correspondent known to be following the Wagner Group, private mercenaries hired by the Russian government that supports Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s military operations.
Russia and Turkey will soon be the only international armies in the area after an international alliance of counterterrorism forces, including French and British soldiers, announced Tuesday they would also depart after the American withdrawal. The Russian Defense Ministry said its military police were stationed at “the northwestern borders of Manbij district along the line of contact of the Syrian Arab Republic military and the Turkish military.” The Russians are coordinating “with the Turkish side,” according to the statement.