The Russian Navy launched cruise missiles against Islamic State targets near the Syrian city of Palmyra on Tuesday.
“The Admiral Essen frigate and Krasnodar submarine of the Russian Navy conducted strikes by four Kalibr cruise missiles on objects of the ISIS terrorist grouping near Palmyra from the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea. All targets have been hit,” said a statement from the Russian Defense Ministry issued on Wednesday.
The Russians said American, Turkish, and Israeli forces “were informed in a timely manner of the missile launches through existing communication channels.”
CNN reports the missiles targeted shelters housing heavy equipment and troops moved from the ISIS “capital” of Raqqa to the Palmyra region. Reuters relays Russian claims that all of the targets were destroyed.
CNN military analyst Matthew Chance described the Kalibr weapons used as roughly analogous to the American Tomahawk missile, but much cheaper. Syria has provided an important testing ground for such weapons, as well as marketing opportunities for Russia to show off its hardware for foreign buyers.
Chance also noted that Russia – despite constant rhetoric about the importance of setting aside international differences to tackle the Islamic State – rarely bombs ISIS targets, preferring instead to attack other opponents of the Syrian government.
Palmyra, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was captured and vandalized by the Islamic State, liberated, and captured again over the course of the Syrian civil war. The city has been held by Syrian government forces since March.
The Russian Defense Ministry criticized the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces on Thursday for not moving aggressively enough against Raqqa, allowing too many ISIS fighters to slip away from the Islamic State’s encircled capital and regroup on other locations like Palmyra.
The Russians vowed to bomb ISIS forces attempting to flee Raqqa, claiming airstrikes have taken out four Islamic State convoys over the past week.
“Any attempts by Islamic State militants to leave Raqqa in the direction of Palmyra will be harshly stopped. The Russian air force in Syria has the firepower and means to effectively destroy terrorists at any time of the day or night,” the Defense Ministry said.