Putin reportedly prepared to launch unilateral airstrikes in Syria
Putin reportedly prepared to launch unilateral airstrikes in Syria –
Syrian government forces have confirmed that they are using Russian-built drones
MEE – Syrian government forces have for the first time confirmed that they are using Russian-built drones to bomb various sites, as Russia says it is prepared to launch unilateral airstrikes in the country.
A Syrian security source told AFP on Wednesday that the unmanned aerial vehicles had been used to target “extremists in the north and east of the country”.
The source did not give further details of the location of the strikes, or which group they were targeting. The Syrian confirmation comes days after US officials said Russia began flying its drones over Syrian airspace.
News of the drones comes as Russian President Vladimir Putin has reportedly said he is preparing for unilateral airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Syria if the US rejects his offer for the two countries to join forces.
Bloomberg reported on Wednesday that Putin wants the US and allies to coordinate their campaign against IS with Russia, Iran and the Syrian army, but has become frustrated by a slow US response to his plan and is prepared to act alone.
Russia also announced on Thursday that it would hold naval drills in the eastern Mediterranean region in September and October.
While the exercises were not linked to the conflict, their timing after a Russian buildup of troops, tanks and fighter jets in Syria, its longstanding ally, drew sharp comments from Western leaders.
French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called on Moscow to justify the “very significant” buildup and said if its intention was “to protect President Bashar al-Assad,” it should say so.
British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, speaking alongside Le Drian after they held talks, said he was “equally concerned” by the Russian buildup in Syria “which will only complicate what’s already a very complicated and difficult situation”.
NATO head Jens Stoltenberg also urged Moscow to make its intentions clear and play a constructive role in the fight against the Islamic State group.
US officials who spoke to CNN said Russian drone flights appeared to be carrying out surveillance operations, and were unable to confirm whether the vehicles were armed.
The escalation comes amid a military build-up in Syria, where new satellite images appear to show building work taking place at two Russian-operated bases as well as fresh arrivals of Russian fighter jets.
Western nations opposed to President Bashar al-Assad and rebel fighters in Syria have warned that the build-up by Russia risks further destabilising the situation in the country.