Russia's top military commander in Syria says that Russian special forces have been active in the country.

Col. Gen. Alexander Dvornikov said in an interview with the government daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta released Wednesday that special forces soldiers have conducted intelligence to pinpoint targets for Russian airstrikes in Syria. He said they also have helped direct aircraft during their missions and carried out other unspecified tasks.

Dvornikov didn't say how many special forces soldiers have been deployed to Syria.

President Vladimir Putin last week ordered a pullout of some Russian warplanes from Syria, but said that strikes against the Islamic State group and the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front will continue. Those groups have been excluded from a Russian- and U.S.-brokered cease-fire that began on Feb. 27 and has largely held.