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Russia's Olympic Stars Visit Syrian Airbase

Defense Ministry

A group of Russia's Olympic stars have visited troops at Russia's Hmeymim airbase in Syria, the Interfax news agency reported Monday.

Former Olympic pole-vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva visited the base alongside Sergei Kamensky, who took home the silver medal in the 50-meter rifle shooting. Fencers Sofia Velikaya, Arthur Ahmathuzinym, Timur Safin and Alexei Cheremisinova, and wrestler Soslan Ramonov — all of whom won gold at the Olympics this summer in Brazil — also took part in the trip.

The athletes planted trees in honor of their visit, while Isinbayeva held morning exercises for the troops.

"Our visit to Syria made a big impression on us,” Isinbayeva said. “We met with our soldiers, officers and generals, and they were all very easy to get on with: very pleasant, but strong and confident at the same time. They are real men.”

The Hmeymim airbase acts as Russia's strategic center for military operations in Syria. The airbase can accommodate up to 50 military aircraft, but is soon to be transformed into a military base with a permanent air force contingent.

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