The Russian Military Police withdrew from the strategic town of Tell Rifaat in the northern Aleppo countryside in the early hours of April 10, according to al-Arabiya TV.
Tell Rifaat is jointly controlled by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). The town is hoisting thousands of civilians who were displaced from their homes in the area of Afrin following the Turkish invasion last year.
Citing local sources, al-Arabiya said that the SAA reinforced its positions in Tell Rifaat and its surroundings following the withdrawal of Russian forces. The source told the UAE-based channel that the locals are fearing a near Turkish attack.
Syrian opposition sources said that the Turkish military deployed a large force, including several armored vehicles in the village of Qartah, east of Tell Rifaat. The step reportedly coincided with the alleged withdrawal of Russian forces, which further legitimize the locals’ fear.
— وكالة يونيوز للأخبار (@uunionnews) April 10, 2019
Last year, senior Turkish officials vowed to capture Tell Rifaat after occupying Afrin. However, the deployment of the Russia Military Police in the town put an end to these threats.
Al-Arabia’s claims were not confirmed or denied by any official Russian source. These claims came two days after a meeting between Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The meeting was reportedly focused on the situation in Syria.