Sources close to the Russian military reported the government plans to expand their missions in Syria to 300 a day.
Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed this weekend that Russian planes in Syria are engaging in 50 missions a day. The Russians are using “Su-24M and Su-34 bombers, low-flying ground attack Su-25CM jets and multi-role Su-30CM fighters” along with “Mil Mi-24 attack helicopters and multi-role Mi-8 helicopters.”
The Syrian government chooses the targets and then passes the information to Russian drones. The images appear on monitors for Russian officials in a room with an Orthodox priest.
The source told The Sunday Times that Russia turned down requests from the Syrian government to target religious buildings or schools.
“The Russians refused to hit them because they are religious symbols, despite their military importance,” explained the source. “They are extremely concerned about the image of Russia’s military actions here.”
Rebel groups have posted numerous images to prove the attacks are killing civilians, including children. Putin and his officials told the international community they only target the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), but videos and images show they have been targeting anyone considered an enemy to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said Russia’s actions are “extending the war.”
“What [Russia] is doing is propping up the Assad regime, making the resolution of all this more difficult,” he stated.
The Syrians, along with Russia and Iran, began an offensive to recapture Aleppo in early October. ISIS is not prevalent in the city, but is held by other Assad opponents. Western diplomats feared that ISIS could actually gain more ground from this offensive.
“We’re very concerned that Russian-supported offensives targeting the moderate opposition are weakening them across the board – and Isil will take advantage of that to seize more territory,” explained one diplomat.
The Syria Observatory for Human Rights reported that the latest offensive in Aleppo killed 40 ISIS terrorists. Russian officials claim they have conducted 80 strikes in Aleppo since Friday.
“Of course we are not fighting for specific leaders, we are defending our national interests, on the one hand,” said Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. “And secondly, we have a request from the lawful authorities (of Syria). That is the basis we are working on. If we don’t destroy these terrorists there, they will come to Russia.”
Outside of the Middle East, Russian citizens are the largest group of foreigners joining jihadist organizations in Syria and Iraq. These Russian terrorists have issued numerous threats to Russia over the past year. Last week, the leader of the al-Qaeda-linked group al-Nusra Front encouraged jihadists in the Caucasus to attack Russia.
“If the Russian army kills the people of Syria, then kill their people. And if they kill our soldiers, then kill their soldiers. An eye for an eye,” declared Abu Mohamed al-Jolani.