The Russian parliament has backed President Vladimir Putin’s proposal to militarily intervene in Syria in support of the country’s embattled regime leader Bashar al Assad, who is struggling to hold on to power as the four-and-a-half-year-old conflict remains locked at a stalemate.
The proposal was approved unanimously by the upper house of parliament in Moscow on Wednesday, Kremlin Chief of Staff Sergei Ivanov confirmed to Russian television.
Ivanov noted that military intervention would not include ground troops and would only be for a set time period, although he did not elaborate on how long the duration would last.
According to Ivanov, the purpose of the mission would be to hit positions held by the ISIS militant group, which has taken advantage of the security vacuum arising from the conflict in Syria to seize swathes of land in the country.
"The Federation Council unanimously supported the president’s request - 162 votes in favor [of granting permission]," Ivanov said.
“This concerns Syria and is not about achieving any foreign policy goals or satisfying some ambitions, as we are regularly accused of by our Western partners, but only the national interests of the Russian Federation,” he added.
The approval comes as Russia continues to build up its military presence in Syria, particularly in the coastal Latakia governorate where the Russians are reportedly developing an airstrip and deploying military experts.
The US has particularly expressed concerns over Russian activity in Syria, and has warned that Russian support for the Assad regime may be counterproductive to joint efforts to end the conflict, which has to date killed around a quarter of a million people and displaced half the country’s population.
While Russia insists on Assad being included in the solution process, the US has long called on Assad to step down.
Earlier this month, however, US Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated the need for Assad to go, but at the same time insisted this did not necessarily have to be immediate.
"It doesn't have to be on day one or month one ... there is a process by which all the parties have to come together and reach an understanding of how this can best be achieved," he said.
There is also a concern that Russian combat missions in Syria may not just target the ISIS militant group, but may also target US-backed opposition forces on the ground.
In recent weeks, there have been talk between US and Russian officials about a possible coordination between Russian forces and the US-led coalition against ISIS, which includes over 60 countries.
Russian President Vladimir Putin avoided the UN General Assembly on Tuesday and instead sent a low-level Russian diplomat, but Russia is set to host a special UN Security Council meeting about terrorism on Wednesday.