Russia defeated ISIL in Syria: Defense Minister

There is consensus that Assad’s government would not have likely survived the Islamist extremist attacks had Russia not intervened politically and militarily [PPIO]

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu told the press Saturday that his country’s intervention in Syria over the past three years helped the government there defeat the Islamist extremists.

“Over the course of the operation, 87,500 militants were destroyed, 1,141 settlements and over 95 per cent of Syria’s territory was liberated,” Shoigu told the Fifth Council of Defense Ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Russia has since September 2015 deployed such advanced weaponry as the SU-34, SU-30SM and SU-5S fighter jets and bombers, Tu-22M3, Tu-160 and Tu-95MS strategic bombers, and the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier used to launch the MiG-29 fighters to battle Islamic extremist forces in Syria.

Russia has also boosted its defensive capabilities in Syria and the Mediterranean by deploying the missile cruiser Moskva stationed near the Latakia coastline – used to boost air defenses – and by deploying S-1, S-300, and S-400 anti-aircraft missile defense systems at its bases in Syria.

The turning point in the war, which the UN estimates has killed more than 400,000 people since 2011, came in December 2016 when Syrian forces, backed by Russian air power, recaptured the city of Aleppo, once a major operating base for such extremist groups as Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

The routing of extremist groups has allowed Iran, Russia and Turkey to negotiate humanitarian corridors and de-escalation zones in and around civilian centers in the country. Russia has delivered hundreds of tonnes of humanitarian aid over the past several years.


Related: Russians killed in Syria


Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has always maintained that its aiding of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s government has helped prevent the partitioning of the country.

The Russians have also blamed the US for ignoring the long-term effects of “their meddling in Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies

Russia begins largest ever military drills

Russia conducted a number of drills in August and early September in the build-up to Vostok 2018 [Russian MoD]

Russia today launched its larged military exercise in nearly four decades, involving hundreds of thousands of troops and thousands of pieces of military hardware in all branches of its armed forces.

Chinese forces will also participate in the six-day exercise, titled Vostok 2018, contributing some 3,200 troops 900 pieces of military hardware and 30 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters.

The Russian military has deployed more than 300,000 troops – including 6,000 paratroopers, 36,000 military vehicles, and more than 1,000 aircraft from Russia’s Eastern and Central military districts, and the Northern Fleet, the Russian Ministry of Defence said.

The exercise will focus on Russia’s efficiency in rapidly moving and deploying large numbers of military forces over large distances.

New weapons systems will also be deployed and tested during the military exercise, the defense ministry said.

The exercises come as Russia and the US drift further apart, especially on resolution of the Syria war. On Tuesday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov condemned US threats to use force in Syria if chemical weapons are used.

The Russian military has for weeks warned of a possible false flag operation to use chemical weapons by Islamist extremists and the White Helmets group in Idlib.

“We particularly name geographical points where preparations are made to carry out provocations and certain terrorist groups backed by the US and its allies,” Ryabkov said.

The Syrian government has been preparing to retake Idlib, in the northwest of the country, currently under control of Al-Qaeda affiliated groups such Tahrir Al Sham.

The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies

Putin in Tehran as Damascus prepares final offensive

Rouhani, Putin and Erdogan – who have met several times in the past year to discuss Middle East tensions – say the end of the war in Syria is at hand [PPIO]

Leaders of Iran, Russia and Turkey are due to meet in Tehran today to discuss ways to bring the Syria war to an end without further bloodshed.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and upreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei are hosting Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as Syrian forces prepare to attack the northwestern province of Idlib in Syria, currently under Islamist extremist control.

Idlib is considered the last major territory under the control of a number of extremist groups, chiefly Tahrir Al Sham, an Al-Qaeda affiliate, estimated to be about 30,000.

But Idlib is also home to some three million civilians and the UN has warned of a humanitarian catastrophe if the Syrian government goes ahead with plans to retake the area.

They have warned of mass civilian casualties and a new refugee exodus of hundreds of thousands of men, women and children.

On Thursday, the Russian and Syrian air forces launched a number of raids on Idlib.

Turkey says it wants to de-escalate from the war footing and has called on Russia and Syria to halt what it called “carpet bombing” of Idlib.

The Russians say that the offensive on the province would be planned with pinpoint accuracy to avoid civilian casualties.

Turkey says it will push during the Tehran talks for a coordinated strategy with Iran and Russia to remove the extremist groups from Idlib.

The US has warned it will take swift action if the Syrian government uses chemical weapons.

The US says it believes there is “lots of evidence” that the Syrian government is planning to use chemical weapons in Idlib, although most military experts see no military advantage in using these banned armaments.

“Any offensive is to us objectionable as a reckless escalation,” Special Adviser to Syria Jim Jeffrey said. “There is lots of evidence that chemical weapons are being prepared.”

But Russia maintains that the Syrian government has a right to forcefully remove the extremist groups in Idlib after efforts to garner their surrender failed.

Moscow has also been warning of a planned false flag operation in the besieged city of Idlib in northwestern Syria allegedly to be carried out by Islamist extremists.

The warning comes as Syrian Army forces reinforce their positions around the city.

Earlier in the week, Russian Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov, met with US State Department officials in Washington to share intelligence reports gathered by Russia of this imminent false flag operation. However, he said the US side rejected the intelligence.

The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies

Suspected US coalition air strike kills dozens in Syria – report

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that a number of refugees were killed during the air raid allegedly carried out by US-led coalition forces in a Syrian town near the Iraqi border [Xinhua]

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) says the death toll from a suspected US-led coalition air strike near the Iraqi border has risen to 42 and will likely continue to rise.

On Tuesday, SOHR said that 11 children and 6 women were among the fatalities in the border town of Al Bokamal.

It said the fatality list included at least 14 Iraqi refugees.

The US-led coalition has not yet commented on this report.

But earlier in May the Pentagon said that its investigations had revealed that more than 350 civilians had been mistakenly killed in air strikes by coalition forces in Iraq and Syria.

On March 17, US coaliton fighter jets bombed a residential area of Mosul in pursuit of an ISIS truck bomb.

At least 200 civilians were killed, with some saying fatalities were as high as 400.

The Washington Post a week later called it “potentially one of the worst U.S.-led civilian bombings in 25 years”.

The SOHR report comes as UN Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura convenes the sixth round of peace talks in Geneva.

Mistura has told reporters that the Geneva talks are “in tandem” with the peace conference held in Astana, Kazakhstan in early May.

During the Astana talks, Iran, Russia and Turkey sponsored a Memorandum of De-Escalation for establishing four safe zones which the Russian news agency TASS said include “the Idlib province and some neighboring territories (Latakia, Hama and Aleppo) to the north of Homs, East Ghouta and some provinces in southern Syria (Daraa and Quneitra)”.

The current round of Geneva talks will benefit from a new format, de Mistura says.

He pointed to four working points for discussion and negotiation, which include holding negotiations, a new constitution, reformed governance and anti-terrorisim efforts.

Syrian President Bashar Al Assad has played down the relevance of the Geneva talks but has nonetheless sent a delegation of 18 senior officials and diplomats.

The armed Syrian opposition says it hopes that the Geneva round of talks will produce a comprehensive ceasefire.

The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies