Moscow has launched strikes on Syria for the first time from a submarine stationed in the Mediterranean. Officials say they have also recovered the black box of the Russian warplane downed by Turkey last month.
"300 targets of different kinds" were attacked in Tuesday's airstrikes on Syrian soil, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said.
"We used Caliber cruise missiles from the (kilo class) Rostov-on-Don submarine from the Mediterranean sea," Shoigu is reported to have told Russian President Vladimir Putin. "As a result of the successful launches by the aviation and submarine fleet, all targets were destroyed," he added.
Two important command centers around Raqqa, the so-called "Islamic State's" (IS) main stronghold, were destroyed, the Russian defense ministry reported. Putin said that the Caliber missiles were capable of carrying nuclear missiles, but he hoped they would "never be needed in the fight against terrorism."
Black box retrieved
The operation was also successful in helping troops recover the black box of a Russian warplane downed by Ankara in November. The black box would be analyzed "together with foreign experts," the Russian president said on Tuesday.
Turkey says the Russian plane strayed into its airspace from the Syrian border despite repeated warnings, but Moscow insists that the act was a planned provocation on Turkey's part. "We used to treat Turkey not only as our friend but also as an ally in the fight against terrorism, and nobody expected this low, treacherous stab in the back," Putin commented.
US warned of strikes
Russia had also warned the US and Israel of attacks on Syria, Shoigu said during his meeting with Putin. Washington confirmed the news. "We were given advance notice that they would be carrying out strikes," Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said. The US appreciated the gesture, particularly because the Kremlin was not required to do so according to an agreement between the US and Russia to prevent the two from clashing over Syria, he added.
The US heads a coalition of some 60 countries who are participating in airstrikes to wipe out the IS from Iraq and Syria. Moscow, a close ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, launched a campaign in Syria on September 30 to target the jihadists after they downed a Russian passenger plane over Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. 244 people were killed in the crash.
Moscow has also ratcheted up its war campaign in Syria since last Saturday, dropping 1,920 bombs and reportedly destroying 70 IS command centers, 21 training grounds and 43 arms depots.
mg/jr (AP, AFP)