Russian warships in the Caspian Sea have launched rockets on Islamic State targets in Syria, marking an escalation in Moscow’s role in the country.
The Kremlin announced that their ships carried out 26 missile strikes on the Islamist militants. It is the first known combat use of Russian sea-based cruise missiles at such a long-range.
Lying more than 1,000km away the warships joined Russia’s air campaign, which saw coordinated attacks with the Syrian army in Hama province and nearby Idlib. President Putin called again for cooperation with the US, Turkey and Arab states on Syria.
The Russian Defence Ministry said that the US refusal to share intelligence on ISIL positions was evidence Washington was seeking excuses not to fight terrorism. The US said it was willing to continue discussions to ensure pilot safety.
“We believe that Russia has the wrong strategy,” announced Ashton Carter, US Defence Secretary. “They continue to hit targets that are not ISIL. We believe this is a fundamental mistake. Despite what the Russians say, we have not agreed to cooperate with Russia as long as they continue to pursue mistaken strategy.”
Russia denies claims that its strikes have hit mainly non-ISIL targets. The Defence Ministry stated that 112 targets had been attacked since it joined the conflict in Syria on September 30.