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Russia says U.S. presence in Syria illegal, protects oil smugglers

Russia says U.S. presence in Syria illegal, protects oil smugglers Members of the National Guard patrol a street in Culiacan, Sinaloa state, Mexico, on October 18, 2019. - Mexico's president faced a firestorm of criticism Friday as his security forces confirmed they arrested kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's son, then released him when his cartel responded with an all-out gun battle. Shamima Begum left her family in London to join Islamic State in February 2015 at the age of just 15IS bride fears for her life Russia's defense ministry on Saturday attacked U.S. plans to maintain and boost the American military presence in eastern Syria as "international state banditry" motivated by a desire to protect oil smugglers and not by real security concerns. U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Friday Washington would send armored vehicles and troops to the Syrian oil fields in order to prevent them from falling into the hands of Islamic State militants. His comments came after President Donald Trump earlier this month pulled some 1,000 U.S. military personnel out of northeast Syria, a move that prompted Turkey to launch a cross-border incursion targeting the Kurdish YPG militia, a former U.S. ally against Islamic State. a group of people riding on the back of a truck: FILE PHOTO: Russian and Syrian national flags flutter on military vehicles near Manbij© Reuters/Omar Sanadiki FILE PHOTO: Russian and Syrian national flags flutter on military vehicles near Manbij Trump's decision drew an angry backlash from Congress, including key Republicans who saw the pullout as a betrayal of the Kurds and a move that could bolster Islamic State. In a statement, Russia's defense ministry said Washington had no mandate under international or U.S. law to increase its military presence in Syria and said its plan was not motivated by genuine security concerns in the region. Subscribe on Telegram to get latest news from Middle East "Therefore Washington's current actions - capturing and maintaining military control over oil fields in eastern Syria - is, simply put, international state banditry," it said. U.S. troops and private security companies in eastern Syria are protecting oil smugglers who make more than $30 million a month, the statement said. Slide 1 of 50: A convoy of Turkish military vehicles is seen in the town of Tal Abyad, Syria October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi - RC15915A7F00 Slide 2 of 50: Syrian Kurds demonstrate against the Turkish assault on northeastern Syria, in the town of Qamishli on October 23, 2019. - Kurdish forces, who controlled close to a third of Syria two weeks ago have now lost almost everything, after an agreement between Moscow and Ankara yesterday granted Turkey the right to remain fully deployed in an Arab-majority area it has dubbed a "safe zone" that was the main target of an offensive it launched on October 9 (Photo by Delil SOULEIMAN / AFP) (Photo by DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP via Getty Images) Slide 3 of 50: James Jeffrey, U.S. State Department special representative for Syria Engagement; arrives to testify before a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on President Trump's decision to remove U.S. forces from Syria, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas - RC1333A2F6B0 Slide 4 of 50: Turkish soldiers patrol the northern Syrian Kurdish town of Tal Abyad, on the border between Syria and Turkey, on October 23, 2019. - Moscow's forces in Syria headed for the border with Turkey today to ensure Kurdish fighters are pulling back after a Turkish-Russian deal wrested control of the Kurds' entire heartland. Kurdish forces, who controlled close to a third of Syria two weeks ago, have now lost almost everything, after the agreement signed in Sochi granted Turkey the right to remain fully deployed in an Arab-majority area that was the main target of an offensive launched on October 9. A convoy of Turkish military vehicles is seen in the town of Tal Abyad, Syria, on Oct. 23. Russia, which backs Syrian President Bashar Assad and has helped him turn the tide of a bloody civil war, has long insisted that the U.S. military presence in Syria is illegal. Moscow has further bolstered its position in Syria following the U.S. withdrawal from the northeast of the country, negotiating a deal this week with Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan to help remove the Kurdish YPG militia from within a 30 km (19 mile) strip along the Syrian-Turkish border. Ankara views the YPG as terrorists linked to Kurdish insurgents operating in southeast Turkey.

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