In the coming weeks, a large-scale ground operation may begin in Syria with the participation of hundreds of Russian mercenaries to win back the Idlib province from the opposition. According to unconfirmed reports, hundreds of fighters build up their positions at the front line preparing for an attack. The fighters form units of 50 men in each group and will have the support of tanks and military aircraft of the Russian Air Force.
Together with Syrian soldiers, the Russian fighters will have to ensure the creation of a corridor to withdraw civilian population. Afterwards, they will wage a "street war" until terrorists in Idlib are defeated completely.
Syrian opposition outlets also indicate Russia's military buildup in Idlib. The number of Russian reconnaissance aircraft has reportedly increased in the area since August of this year. At least three Russian UAVs were shot down in the south of Idlib in late August and then in early September 2019.
Idlib remains one of the "hottest" zones in Syria. A large number of radical Islamists - up to 35,000 people - are still concentrated in the province. According to Moscow, terrorists control up to 90% of the Idlib de-escalation zone. Moreover, as President Putin said, the Russian military have reported the transfer of militants from Idlib to other regions of the world.
Syrian troops have recently captured the city of Khan Shaykhun, forced radical Islamists to leave the city, but after clashes with Turkish troops and the subsequent bombing of a Turkish convoy by Syrian fighter aircraft, an agreement was reached on a moratorium for the movement of Syrian troops into Idlib.
The military operation started in Idlib in April 2019, but most of the province is still controlled by opposition groups. Officially, it is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad who conducts the operation with the support of the Russian Air Force. According to Moscow, Russia helps Assad with military aviation, instructors, and military police.