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BRUSSELS, January 27. /TASS/. A Russian diplomat has called the Russian Defense Ministry’s operation in Syria more transparent than the actions of the US-led coalition. The media allegations that the Russian forces deliver strikes on "the wrong targets" are coming from unreliable sources, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the EU Vladimir Chizhov said on Wednesday at the European Policy Centre in Brussels at a panel discussion on Russia’s role in the Middle East.
"Another point to be clarified is that numerous allegations in media that Russia is 'striking the wrong targets' do not come from reliable sources. The Russian Defence Ministry is absolutely transparent in this respect and provides all the information about the operation on a daily basis, even organizing trips for journalists. So let me repeat the call to refer to facts confirmed," said the Russian ambassador.
"The fact that the number of Russian and CIS citizens who joined ISIS [Islamic State terrorist group] is estimated at 5000-6000 makes it even more sensitive for our country. ISIS is an absolute enemy of mankind and must be treated as such. We must dispel the illusion it entertains that it can associate itself with Islam," the Russian official said.
In general, he said, the Middle East region is going through hard times now, especially in connection with the aggravation of religious contradictions between the Shiites and Sunnis. There are certain splits in the region’s states, including Saudi Arabia — a country where the Shiite minority is rather active. Another such country is Yemen. Even Bahrain, a geographically small country, is a very important place, where three quarters of the population are Shiites, and the country is governed by Sunnis. If anyone is interested in the mediation efforts, Russia is always ready to help, he said. According to Chizhov, "Russia is ready to cooperate with those truly committed to peace and stability in this region which, beyond a shadow of doubt, deserves the prospect of a better future."
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.
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.