The most significant Russian economic coup to date came in the form of an agreement revealed by the St Petersburg daily Fontanka in June 2017.According to documents recovered by the outlet, in December 2016 an agreement was concluded between Syrian Oil and Gas Minister Ali Ghanem and a Russian firm under the auspices of the Russian Ministry of Energy.
A further Russian parliamentary visit to Syria in November 2016 resulted in Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem reportedly offering Russia firms priority in rebuilding Syria.
Leading Russia’s reconstruction efforts in Syria is a seemingly unusual actor: the restive North Caucasus republic of Chechnya.
Over the past eight months, Russia has increasingly seized the initiative in charting the political and military course of events in Syria.
With the United States focused on the fight against Islamic State in Raqqa, Moscow has engineered, with Ankara’s cooperation, a number of “de-escalation zones” in the country, covering the four primary areas of regime-rebel contact.
Russian aerial assets have also supported this offensive, shifting since 9 July to focus on Islamic State territory near Sukhna and along the Euphrates River.
These efforts dovetail with recently-revealed economic interests secured by Russia in the area.
This agreement allegedly awarded 25% of Syria’s entire oil and gas production to Russian firm Stroitransgaz, which was entrusted with providing services regarding the “defence, production and transportation” from the fields in eastern Syria.
Another Russian firm involved with these dealings, Euro Polis, is closely linked to both Stroitransgaz head Evgeny Prigozhin, himself a close Putin ally, and Dmitry Utkin, the leader of the well-known Russian private military contractor Wagner.
This marked growth shows Moscow’s seriousness in implementing its painstakingly-negotiated ceasefire regimes in western Syria.
Further developments along the western front occurred in early August.
On 26 July, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu confirmed a major development, stating that Russia presently had four military police battalions operating in Syria, eclipsing the previous total of two to three such units.