The office of Syrian President Bashar Assad is welcoming Russia's decision to send troops to Syria, saying the military support came at the request of Damascus.

Wednesday's statement says Assad had sent a letter to his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, asking for the military support. Assad's Facebook page also reiterated that the support "came upon a request from the Syrian state."

The statements came shortly after Russian lawmakers voted unanimously to let Putin send Russian troops to Syria. The Kremlin sought to play down the decision, saying it will only use its air force in the Mideast country, not ground troops.

Russia has been one of Assad's strongest allies since the Syrian crisis began in March 2011 killing more than 25,000 people and wounding a million.