Dec. 26 (UPI) -- Russia has begun forming a "permanent presence" at two military bases in Syria, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said.
During a conference call on Tuesday, Shoigu said Russian President Vladimir Putin approved the structure and personnel strength at Russia's main bases in Syria's Tartus and Hmeymim bases, Russia's state-run Tass news agency reported.
"We have started forming a permanent grouping there," he said.
The Hmeymim air base has served as the headquarters of Russia's military mission in Syria since its military fighter planes first arrived there in 2015.
Russia's Federation Council approved an agreement between Russia and Syria on Tuesday to expand the naval facility in Tartus into a full-fledged naval base.
The deal will grant Russian warships access to Syrian waters and ports, and allow Russia to keep 11 warships at Tartus, including nuclear vessels.
The agreement will last for 49 years, with the potential to be prolonged.