Controversy around Russian airstrikes against IS in Syria: The Russian Defense Ministry said Friday that the Russian Aerospace Forces have carried out 18 sorties against the Islamic State group in Syria over the past 24 hours. On Thursday, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Konashenkov said that as a result of Russian airstrikes against IS on the territory of Syria, "a stronghold of terrorist groups and ammunition depot near the city of Idlib were destroyed, as well as a command post of militants near the settlement of Hama." He added that the Russian Aerospace Forces destroyed an Islamic State headquarters near the town of al-Latamna with a ground bomb. Also on Thursday, the Russian and US militaries held 'deconfliction' talks by video conference to discuss ways to avoid accidental conflicts during operations in Syria. Meanwhile, the media cites claims that Russian attacks were not directed at Islamic State militants but at opposition groups fighting against Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces. Kommersant speaks of a growing resentment in the US and its allies over Russian airstrikes against Islamic radicals' positions in Syria. Nezavisimaya Gazeta remarks that the results of Russia's first airstrikes in Syria led to further escalation of relations between Moscow and Washington. The newspaper inter alia refers to the Wall Street Journal, which claimed that Russian airstrikes targeted CIA-backed rebels. Some Western sources argue that Russia is trying to help the Assad regime gain control over the strategically important town of Homs. Saudi Arabia and Turkey spoke resolutely against Russia's military operation in Syria. Saudi Arabia's permanent representative to the UN al-Mouallimi claimed that Russian forces had carried out airstrikes in Homs and Hama, where Islamic State militants are not present, and demanded that Moscow stop its airstrikes in Syria. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Lavrov told reporters on Thursday in New York that Russia was fighting terrorists and targeting ISIL, Jabhat al-Nusra and other terrorist groups. He also said that Russia does not consider the Free Syrian Army a terrorist group, adding that it should be part of the political process. Lavrov stressed that Russia cannot join the US-led coalition fighting against Islamic State as this coalition "operates without the UN Security Council mandate and without request from one of the countries on whose territory they operate." Vedomosti cites Lavrov as having described as 'absurd' claims that Russia's military operation in Syria is intended to divert attention from Ukraine. Meeting with human rights activists in Moscow, Russian President Putin dismissed as 'information attacks' allegations that civilians were killed in Russian airstrikes and argued that "the first reports about civilian casualties came before Russian aircraft took off." In an editorial, Nezavisimaya Gazeta considers that it is impossible to solve the problem of the Islamic State without ending the civil war in Syria. In a separate publication, Nezavisimaya Gazeta warns that Moscow's involvement in the Syrian conflict could have serious consequences for Russia itself and speaks of an increased threat of terrorist attacks, including in the North Caucasus. According to the New York Times, the 'Army of Islam' group financed by Saudi Arabia has declared war on Russia. (All media; see also 'editorial lines')
In his article published in Izvestia, writer Alexandr Prokhanov says that those who [in regards to Russian airstrikes in Syria] speak of Russian imperial ambitions, Russian expansion and of a repetition of the Afghanistan War are either pacifists or propagandists. Prokhanov stresses that ISIL represents a real threat to Russia's strategic borders, including the North Caucasus and Central Asia.
Russia-US cooperation in the war against ISIL is crucial! The US seems now to understand the threat that ISIL represents. Not even the US and its Muslim communities are safe from ISIL attacks, as evidenced by the Boston bombings.
Europe is currently in a state of shock over the vast influx of refugees. Chancellor Merkel has realised that if Assad falls, the waves of refugees will increase still further, and is now saying that Bashar Assad must be counted on in negotiations over the Middle East.
Vedomosti, 6 October
By Pavel Aptekar
Russian involvement in Syria is becoming part of the everyday routine. Some television channels have even taken to predicting the weather in Syria, adding that clear skies and minimal wind are useful factors for Russian aircraft. A Duma deputy has suggested that military subdivisions of Russian volunteers who fought in Donbass may join the Syrian army. Seemingly, the authorities are preparing civic space for the possibility a ground operation.
Russia's increasing participation in Syria is also causing unease amongst members of parallel coalitions in the fight against ISIS. On Monday the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was forced to apologise after a Russian aircraft violated Turkish airspace. Saudi Arabia announced its discontent with Russia's air operation.
Meanwhile mistaken airstrikes against peaceful population are inevitable. The US military recently admitted to bombing a hospital in Afghanistan according to coordinates given to them by Afghan informants. But such misjudgements lead to sharp reactions in Muslim communities. And Russia does not have a good reputation in the Islamic world as it is, after Afghanistan and Chechnya.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 12 October
Russian Grand Mufti Ravil Gainutdin – representative of Russia's Muslim community – said last Friday that he supports the steps the Russian authorities are taking in the war against terrorism, and categorically denied that Russia's actions represent a Russian Orthodox war against Islamic armed forces.
Earlier, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov declared that he considers himself the Caucasus' "chief Sunnite". Meanwhile, one of Egypt's presidential advisors is currently visiting Grozny.
The opening of a new mosque in Moscow is further evidence of the steps that are being taken to counteract the propaganda campaign seeking to discredit Russia's military operation in Syria. But up to fifty Saudi Muftis have called Russia's intervention a 'holy war', due to its specific targeting of enemies of Bashar Assad's Alawite regime.
Court arrests three suspects over plotting terrorist attack in Moscow: A Moscow district court on Tuesday sanctioned the arrest of three residents of Chechnya – Aslan Baisultanov, Elman Ashayev and Mokhmad Mezhidov – suspected of involvement in plotting a terrorist attack in Moscow. Reportedly, Baisultanov has arrived in Russia from Syria to carry out the attack. Previously, the Federal Security Service (FSB) said that 12 people had been detained on suspicion of plotting a terrorist attack in the Russian capital. According to the FSB, a terrorist attack was planned in order to make Russia stop its military operation in Syria against Islamic State. Meanwhile, Novaya Gazeta expresses the view that the information on the prevention of a terror attack in Moscow might be part of 'anti-terrorist exercises'. (Gazeta.ru, Kommersant, MK, MT, NG, Novaya Gazeta, RBK, RG; Rossiya 1, Channel One)
Four militants killed in Dagestan: The National Antiterrorism Committee said on Saturday that four militants, who were involved in the killing of an imam in September, had been killed in an operation in Dagestan's Khasavyurt district. (Gazeta.ru, Interfax)
IS cell uncovered in Dagestan: A criminal case has been opened in connection with creation of a branch of the Islamic State terrorist group in Dagestan. (Kommersant, RG)
Four militants killed in Dagestan: The National Antiterrorist Committee said that three suspected militants were killed in a shootout with police in Dagestan early on Wednesday. (Interfax)
30 oktober 2015
Two Ukrainians stand trial in Grozny over Chechen war: The Moscow Times reports on the trial in Grozny of Ukrainian nationals Stanislav Klykh and Nikolai Karpyuk who are accused of fighting in Chechnya against Russian soldiers in the 1990s. (MT)