The Russian assistance to Turkey during the attempted coup

The Russian assistance to Turkey during the attempted coup

Reports that emerged last week, on the occasion of the third anniversary of a failed coup in Turkey, suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin had called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the night of July 15, 1016, to offer him the support of Russian special forces, were not absolutely accurate, Kathimerini understands. 

Last week, the European Council on Foreign Relations published an article citing senior Turkish sources as saying that "Putin called Erdogan that night to offer him the support of Russian special forces units deployed on a nearby Greek island." 

As Greece and Russia have no bilateral agreement for the joint training of their special forces, that report was received with significant skepticism by sources in Athens as it could not be a reflection of the truth. 

As it transpires, the report contained some truth though the purported use of a Greek island was not part of it. 

In fact, for two nights, the night of the coup and the following one, there were Russian forces near Marmaris, where Erdogan was vacationing when the attempted coup was undertaken. They were not on a Greek island, however, but on two Russian navy vessels – a tank landing ship returning from Syria and a frigate sailing towards the Eastern Aegean. 

According to well-informed sources, the two warships remained in the area east of Rhodes and west of Kastellorizo for two days before each resuming their course to their respective destinations.

It is not unusual for Russian ships to stop in the Aegean as, on the basis of old agreements between Athens and Moscow, there are five anchoring berths that Russia's Navy has the right to use, particularly over the past five years that Russia's presence in Syria has increased. 

However, none of those berths are in the region where the two ships were positioned on July 15 and 16, 2016. What remains unclear is the size of the units on the Russian vessels at the time though they are understood to have belonged to the Spetsnaz special forces. 

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