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Syrian state TV airs Russian WWII song

Increasing Russian cultural influence in Syria comes alongside fears over a military build-up
A screengrab from the video shows a woman dressed in Russian uniform posing in front of a military vehicle (YouTube)

Syrian state television on Sunday broadcast a Soviet-era Russian war song, amid an ongoing military build-up in the country.

The video, whose lyrics were translated into Arabic, features a young woman in uniform standing in front of a military vehicle and singing to her lover, a soldier in the Russian army.

The song, Katyusha, was broadcast by two state television channels on Sunday.

Katyusha was written during the Second World War, and describes a Red Army soldier as a “hero…guarding his proud nation”.

Russia, a key ally of President Bashar al-Assad, has been exporting media content to Syria for several months amid concerns that it could further ramp up its military support to pro-government forces.

State-owned satellite channel Syrian Drama has since May been screening the Russian military drama series The Front in the Heart of the Enemy, and state news channels frequently carry domestic reports from the country.

Sunday’s broadcast provoked ridicule among Assad’s opponents on social media, where activists have been circulating pictures claiming to show soldiers in Russian military uniform posing in front of propaganda supportive of the Syrian president.

Translation: Even Syrian television has become Russian – Russian songs, Russian drama series, Russian films

Another user, Saudi commentator Mohammad bin Amira, wrote that “Syrian television broadcasts Russian songs, while also criticising the Saudi intervention in Yemen. This is sheer stupidity.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday moved to deny speculation that Russian forces are on the ground in Syria, saying he does not intend to send troops “right now”.

Giving an extended interview to the US programme 60 Minutes, Putin said he was instead “considering intensifying [Russia’s] work with both President Assad and with [Russia’s] partners in other countries”.

Putin will address the UN General Assembly in New York on Monday for the first time in a decade, and will then hold face-to-face talks with his US counterpart Barack Obama.