Russian air strikes target Assad regime’s opponents

Reuters reports: Russian air strikes in Syria are targeting a list of well-known militant organizations, not only Islamic State, the Kremlin said on Thursday, a day after the launch of its aerial campaign opened up a volatile new phase in the conflict.

Moscow had previously framed its campaign as primarily aimed at Islamic State militants, saying it feared Russian and other ex-Soviet citizens who belong to the group would shift their focus to their home countries if they were not stopped in Syria.

But on Thursday, after the United States and rebels on the ground suggested Russian strikes had so far not focused on Islamic State, it said its operation was pitched more broadly.

“These organizations (on the target list) are well-known and the targets are chosen in coordination with the armed forces of Syria,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, when asked if Russia and the West had different views on what constituted a terrorist group. [Continue reading…]

The New York Times reports: The start of the Russian air campaign against Syrian rebels on Wednesday unfolded in territory largely off limits to journalists, but at least some of the bombing runs appear to have been well documented on YouTube. Within hours of the first sorties, Russia’s Air Force released aerial views of some strikes, and footage recorded by militants and activists on the ground appeared to show the impact of the bombing.

Perhaps the most contested footage was uploaded by the Russian Defense Ministry and showed what officials described as evidence of three strikes “against Islamic State terrorist organization positions in Syria.”

However, an analysis of the topography shown in the video by a team of Russian bloggers who honed their craft parsing social media evidence of the war in Ukraine suggested that the strikes had taken place in a part of Syria controlled not by the Islamic State but by rival insurgent groups that oppose both Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, and the Islamic State. [Continue reading…]

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