Russia Steps Up Bombing Campaign in Syria 

 Russian-Fighter-jet-Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin defends decision to send warplanes as aimed at political solution.

MOSCOW— Thomas Grove reports: Russia stepped up its bombing campaign in Syria over the weekend, more than doubling the rate of strikes seen at the beginning of the operation.

“The Kremlin’s air campaign in Syria has exacerbated tensions between Moscow and Washington, which has led a separate campaign of strikes against Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq.”

The Russian Ministry of Defense said Monday its jet fighters had carried out 55 sorties over the past 24 hours, hitting targets in the provinces of Homs, Hama, Latakia, Idlib and Raqqa. The daily number had been around two dozen last week.

“U.S. and Western officials say Russia’s airstrikes have largely targeted Syrian opposition groups other than Islamic State in a bid to shore up Mr. Assad’s government.”

Russian warplanes are backing an offensive launched last week by troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The Russian military said Su-34, Su-24 and Su-25 fighters hit Islamic State field headquarters, training camps and weapons arsenals in the latest bombing runs.

russia-syria-bombing

“Our task is to stabilize the legal government and create the right conditions for reaching a political compromise. We have no desire to recreate an empire and resurrect the Soviet Union.”

— Vladimir Putin

The Kremlin’s air campaign in Syria has exacerbated tensions between Moscow and Washington, which has led a separate campaign of strikes against Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq. U.S. and Western officials say Russia’s airstrikes have largely targeted Syrian opposition groups other than Islamic State in a bid to shore up Mr. Assad’s government.

[Read the full text here, at WSJ]

The Russian government depicts Islamic State as a direct threat to its citizens. On Monday, Russia’s Federal Security Service told the state news agency Interfax that law-enforcement officials had foiled a plot to carry out an attack on public transportation in Moscow—and that some of the individuals arrested in the case had trained at Islamic State camps in Syria.

In an interview aired Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putin defended his decision to send warplanes to Syria, saying the air war was aimed at spurring a political solution to the conflict in Syria.

“Our task is to stabilize the legal government and create the right conditions for reaching a political compromise,” Mr. Putin said. “We have no desire to recreate an empire and resurrect the Soviet Union.”

European foreign ministers called for a halt to attacks on opposition groups at a meeting in Luxembourg on Monday, saying the Russian intervention could prolong the war. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini called Russia’s airstrikes “a game changer.”

Russia’s action must be coordinated, she said, “otherwise it risks to be extremely dangerous not only from the political point of view but mainly from a military point of view.”

The campaign has raised worries of an inadvertent confrontation between U.S. aircraft and Russian jets in crowded Middle Eastern airspace. Last week, Russia launched cruise missiles against targets in Syria, spurring global aviation officials to issue safety alerts to airlines operating over Iraq, Iran and the Caspian Sea.

Mr. Putin said Moscow and Washington were making progress on technical cooperation around their sorties “in order to avoid any kinds of incidents…..(read more)

Source: WSJ

—Ahmed Al Omran in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Laurence Norman in Brussels and Jenny Gross in London contributed to this article.

Write to Thomas Grove at thomas.grove@wsj.com

 



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