The Russian Embassy in Syria said WednesdayÂ that the Kremlin hasÂ delivered a â€œsecond batchâ€ of MiG-29 fighter aircraft to Khmeimim air base.
The statement followedÂ an announcement Saturday by Syriaâ€™s state-run SANA news agency that a â€œsecond group of modern and advanced MiG-29 fightersâ€ was received in a ceremony the same dayÂ at the base in Latakia. SANA said Syrian pilots would begin flying missions with the aircraft Monday.
The statements leftÂ unclear when the first batch of planes was received.
The Syrian announcement came four days after the United StatesÂ accused Russia of delivering at least 14 MiG-29 and Su-24 aircraft to Libya via Syria, where US Africa Command said they were repainted before continuing on to support Khalifa Hifterâ€™s campaign against the United Nations-backed government in Tripoli.
AFRICOMâ€™s commander called the move a â€œserious escalation.â€ Viktor Bondarev, a parliamentarian who formerly led the RussianÂ air force, denied the government had sent aircraft to Libya. Russia also denies that its Wagner paramilitary troops are present in the country despite significant evidence.
A top AFRICOM intelligence official last week responded to Russiaâ€™s denial, saying the United StatesÂ was able to â€œwatchâ€ and photograph the aircraft as they flew from Russia “by way of Iran”Â to Syria before continuing on to Libya.
AFRICOM earlier this week suggested it was considering sending military trainers to Tunisia in response to Russiaâ€™s involvement in Libya. Hifterâ€™s forces have been in retreat and the UN-backed governmentâ€™s forces declared full control of Tripoli on Thursday.
It is not clear how many of Syriaâ€™s MiG-29s are still functional after years of sanctions and war. The countryâ€™s military has relied more on its less advanced Su-24s in recent years, two of which Turkey downed earlier this year over the countryâ€™s northwest.