Russia has expanded its campaign against opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, launching missiles at targets in Syria from the Caspian Sea. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu made the announcement in a meeting with President Vladimir Putin on television.
Shoigu told the audience that four ships have launched 26 rockets so far. He claimed the missiles destroyed “all 11 intended targets” and were not “targeted at civilian areas.” Russia needed approval from Iran and Iraq in order to launch the attack since the missiles travelled through their airspace. Iran is also an ally of Assad.
The Ministry of Defense posted a video of these airstrikes.
“Strikes have hit 112 targets from September 30 until today,” stated Shoigu. “The intensity of the strikes is increasing.”
The Dagestan, Grad Sviyazhsk, Uglich, and Veliky Ustyug fired the missiles. UPI reports the Dagestan is “the flagship of the operations.” The ministry states the Caspian Flotilla “consists of several brigades and divisions of surface ships and units of coastal troops.” It is stationed in Astrakhan. In 2011, the Russian navy announced the flotilla “would receive 16 new warships and missile-carrying vessels by 2020.”
The countries that border the Caspian Sea signed a treaty in 2014 “banning any military deployment by a non-Caspian state” in the sea. This means the sea will remain free of NATO.
At the same time, Syrian forces fought back against rebels in central Syria. Those on the ground informed media outlets that Russian jets bombed villages and towns “held by the opposition in Hama’s countryside” as Syrian troops attacked on the ground. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claims the Russians hit “targets in the province of Idlib.” Radical Islamic group Jaysh al-Fateh, who has links to al-Qaeda, is prominent in the province.
On Monday, Admiral Vladimir Komoyedov, head of the Russian parliament’s defense committee, told Russian media that “volunteers” fighting in Ukraine might travel to Syria to fight with President Bashar al-Assad’s troops. Interfax reported the volunteers earn around $50 a day.
Komoyedov also said that the Black Sea Fleet might “be used to blockade parts of Syria’s coastline if necessary or to shell Islamist groups on Syrian territory.” Russia stations this fleet on Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that Putin annexed from Ukraine in March 2014.