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Vladimir Putin Orders Russian Military to be ‘extremely tough’ in Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday ordered his military to “act as toughly as possible” in defending its air group currently deployed in Syria, and to fire on anything that might threaten Russian servicemen and hardware in country.

“I want to warn anyone who might again try to organise a provocation against our troops … any targets threatening the Russian air grouping or our land infrastructure should be immediately destroyed,” Putin said.

The comments come just two weeks after a Turkish F-16 fighter jet shot down a Russian Su-24 fighter-bomber after it infringed on Turkish airspace during a bombing run, and appeared to be aimed primarily at Ankara.

However, with regards to other nations involved in the Syrian conflict, Putin struck a more cordial tone — calling for greater cooperation with nations genuinely interested in stopping terrorists, rather than those aiding them, as Putin has accused Turkey in the past two weeks.

“I am talking about contacts with the Israeli Air Force command posts and with the forces of the [anti-ISIS] coalition led by the U.S.,” Putin said.

The Russian president also used the occasion to review the status of Russia’s 20 trillion ruble (£150bn) decade-long military rearmament program, calling on special focus be paid to ensuring that upgrades to Russia’s nuclear arsenal are completed on time and within the budget.

However, the majority of his address to the Defense Ministry was focused on praising the military’s efforts against the Islamic State in Syria. The Russian president stressed that his nation’s presence there is a practical measure to prevent terrorism from coming home to Russia.

“Our actions [in Syria] are not dictated by some abstract vague geopolitical interests,” Putin said. “We are not testing our new weapons or demonstrating our might, which is of course also important … but the main thing is to protect Russia [from terrorism].”

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, who spoke following Putin’s address, said that the Islamic State controls about 70 percent of Syrian territory, and that some 60,000 militants fight under their black banner in Syria and Iraq.

“The Islamic State’s area of influence is expanding,” Shoigu warned. “There is a threat that their actions will spill over into Central Asia and the Caucuses,” he said.

Russia has been bombing targets in Syria since Sept. 30 as part of what is described officially as an anti-IS campaign. Moscow initially deployed around 30 airplanes and 20 helicopters to a Syrian airbase in the government-held Latakia region, but has since nearly doubled its commitment.

Source: The Telegraph


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