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Russian air strikes in Syria unexpectedly effective — New York Times

February 11, 8:26 UTC+3 NEW YORK
The NYT says the US State Secretary "is circumspect about his dilemma" as the Russian operation "has been surprising effective in helping Mr. Assad reclaim the central cities he needs to hold power"
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A Russian pilot in Syria

A Russian pilot in Syria

© Vadim Savitsky/Russian Defense Ministry press service//TASS

NEW YORK, February 11. /TASS/. Russian air strikes in Syria have proved to be unexpectedly effective and may enable Syria’s President Bashar Assad to regain control over the key cities, the New York Times online newspaper said on Wednesday.

"The Russian military action has changed the shape of a conflict that had effectively been stalemated for years," the daily says. "Suddenly, Mr. Assad and his allies have momentum, and the United States-backed rebels are on the run."

The NYT says that US State Secretary John Kerry "is circumspect about his dilemma" as the Russian military operation "has been surprising effective in helping Mr. Assad reclaim the central cities he needs to hold power."

Russia's military operation in Syria

Russia’s Aerospace Force started delivering strikes in Syria at facilities of the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist groups (both banned in Russia) on September 30, 2015. The air group initially comprised over 50 aircraft and helicopters, including Sukhoi Su-24M, Su-25SM and state-of-the-art Su-34 aircraft. They were redeployed to the Khmeimim airbase in the province of Latakia. On October 7, Moscow also involved the Russian Navy in the military operation. Four missile ships of the Caspian Flotilla fired 26 Kalibr cruise missiles (NATO codename Sizzler) at militants’ facilities in Syria.

Since 2014, the US-led coalition has also been delivering air strikes against militants in Syria and Iraq.

In mid-November, after an alleged terrorist attack on Russian passenger jet that fell in Egypt killing 224 people on board, Moscow increased the number of aircraft taking part in the operation in Syria by several dozen and involved strategic bombers in the strikes as well. Targets of the Russian aircraft include terrorists’ gasoline tankers and oil refineries. Russia’s aircraft have made thousands of sorties since the start of the operation in Syria, with over a hundred of them performed by long-range aircraft.

On November 24, a Turkish F-16 fighter brought down a Russian Sukhoi Su-24M bomber involved in Moscow’s military operation against the Islamic State (a terrorist group outlawed in Russia).  Ankara claimed the warplane violated the Turkey’s airspace. The Russian Defense Ministry said the warplane was flying over Syrian territory without violating Turkey’s airspace. The Russian president referred to the attack as a “stab in Russia’s back” and promised that the move would cause response action from Russia. Moscow deployed new S-400 air defense systems in Syria in order to protect the warplanes involved in the military operation and started arming the fighters intended to provide air support to bombers and attack aircraft in Syria with air-to-air missiles.

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