Russia does not want war, Putin says

SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - MARCH 16: (RUSSIA OUT) Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures during his meeting with health workers at the Almazov Medical National Research Centre on March 16, 2018 in Saint Petersburg, Russia. The 2018 Russian Presidential Elections will take place on March 18. (Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said Russia does not plan to go to war with anyone but wants to dissuade other countries from engaging in conflict with Moscow, Tass news agency reported Monday.

Putin made the comments in a Tass interview in which the Russian news agency began releasing parts of in installments on Feb. 20. Monday’s comments were included in the sixth such installment.

The publication of the remarks came amid rising tensions in Syria’s Idlib region where Russia is backing Syrian regime forces against Turkey.

Earlier Sunday, the Bashar Assad regime said northwestern airspace was closed and any aircraft or drone that entered “will be treated as hostile and shot down.”

The Syrian regime’s announcement followed two days of Turkish drone strikes in Idlib province. Turkey has lost 54 soldiers in February, including 33 killed Thursday in a single airstrike.

Following Thursday’s attack, Turkey launched Operation Spring Shield to put an end to regime massacres and to prevent radicalization and migration, according to Turkish National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar. The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) continued to pound regime targets Sunday, destroying tanks and armored vehicles and killing more than 50 regime soldiers.