Russian special forces helping Syrian troops in key city

Russia's defense ministry says its special forces are helping Syrian government troops fight Islamic State militants in the battle underway for the strategic city of Deir el-Zour.

The campaign for Syria's largest eastern city is caught up in a race between government troops and the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

In the past two weeks, the pro-government forces, backed by Russian air cover and Iranian-allied militiamen, gained control of most of the city and crossed the Euphrates River to the area of SDF operations.

A statement from Russia's defense ministry on Thursday says that Russian special forces have been deployed to help Syrian government forces fighting the IS militants outside the city.

The ministry also says a Syrian government offensive late on Wednesday captured two villages on the Euphrates' western bank.