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  Sunday, December 15, 2019
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Russian combat engineers will fly to Lebanon at the end of September
Russian combat engineers will fly to Lebanon at the end of September, and a reconnaissance group is ready to leave this week, the defense minister said Monday. "The engineering battalion itself is ready to leave for Lebanon on civilian ships at the end of the month," said Sergei Ivanov, who is also a deputy prime minister. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the Lebanese government was ready to receive the combat engineers, who will help build pontoon bridges to help restore the country's devastated infrastructure. Israeli military operations against the Lebanon-based radical group Hizbollah in late July-early August claimed the lives of over 1,000 Lebanese civilians, forced nearly a quarter of the country's population to flee, and demolished large parts of the country's infrastructure. About 160 Israelis also died. The Kremlin press office said President Vladimir Putin asked the head of the Kremlin administration to draft a request on sending troops to Lebanon. The request will be submitted to the upper chamber of parliament, the Federation Council, once Moscow receives an official request from Lebanon. The Federation Council must approve any decision to send Russian troops abroad. The defense minister said the engineering battalion will probably work outside of the mandate of the UN, which is presiding over efforts to rebuild Lebanon's gravely damaged infrastructure and provide relief aid to civilians. The UN has been leading international efforts to broker a ceasefire agreement during the five-week fighting provoked by the killing of three Israeli servicemen and the abduction of another two by Hizbollah. The UN has also helped convince Israel to lift its air and naval blockades of Lebanon, imposed to prevent Iran and Syria from supplying Hizbollah fighters with weapons. The organization has deployed about 4,000 troops in southern Lebanon to ensure the August 14 ceasefire, and plans to eventually expand the peacekeeping force to 15,000, mainly through European contributions. The Lebanese government is expected to send in an equal number of troops. Russia's contribution to the international peacekeeping force has also been under discussion.
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