Russian pilots stand outside their Su-30 fighter jet, armed with air-to-air missiles, before a take-off at Hmeimim air base in Syria.
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Moscow joined the fight in Syria to return to relevance in international diplomacy.Russian warplanes have helped the Syrian army make broad advances and close in on the country's biggest city, Aleppo.The Russian military says it makes little sense to allocate extra assets since it takes just 15 minutes for Russian warplanes from Hmeimim to reach any area in Syria.Russia has deployed an unidentified number of advisers to train Syrian troops to use Russian weapons and help coordinate air attacks, but Putin has firmly ruled out any ground action. The Russian military has lost three men in Syria: a pilot killed when his warplane was downed by a Turkish jet in November, a marine who died on a mission to rescue that pilot's crewmate, and a Russian military adviser who died in mortar shelling at the front line.Russia began its air campaign on Sept. 30, nearly five years after the war began, and the impact soon became visible as Assad's military launched a multipronged offensive.In the crowded skies over Syria, U.S. officials say Russian pilots often perform risky maneuvers, flying extremely close to the U.S. warplanes.
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