Syria: Putin 'threatens unilateral airstrikes,' orders Mediterranean military drills

Syria: Putin 'threatens unilateral airstrikes,' orders Mediterranean military drills
Russian leader Vladimir Putin is considering unilateral airstrikes against IS in Syria, a report from the Bloomberg news service claimed Wednesday.
3 min read
24 September, 2015
Russian Navy flagship missile cruiser 'Moskva' could take part in the drills off Syria [AFP]
Russian President Vladimir Putin is preparing for unilateral airstrikes against the Islamic State group (IS, formerly ISIS) in Syria if the United States rejects his proposal to join forces, US media reported on Wednesday.

A Russian diplomatic source told Reuters on Wednesday that Moscow sees a growing chance to reach international agreement on fighting terrorism in Syria and end the crisis that has stretched into its fifth year.

Sources told Bloomberg Putin was frustrated with US reticence and was ready to act alone in Syria

Bloomberg reported that Putin's preferred course of action was for the US government and its allies to agree to coordinate their campaign against IS militants with Russia, Iran and the Syrian army. It cited a person close to the Kremlin and an adviser to the Defence Ministry in Moscow.

Bloomberg cited a third person as saying Putin's proposal called for a "parallel track" of joint military action accompanied by a political transition away from Assad, a key US demand. Russia has communicated the proposal to the United States, according to the news service.

But one source told Bloomberg that Putin was frustrated with US reticence to respond and was ready to act alone in Syria if necessary.

In Moscow, presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov blasted "foreign media" for the hype over Russia's presence in Syria, in reference to Bloomberg's report, dimissing the claims Moscow could be preparing for a unilateral strike on IS in Syria as "speculation that has nothing to do with reality."

Peskov also said he had no knowledge of any plans for President Vladimir Putin to ask the Russian parliament to give the green light for sending Russian troops to Syria.

Mediterranean war games

The Russian defence ministry on Thursday said it was conducting drills involving a guided missile cruiser in the eastern Mediterranean, which could be near the Syrian coast.

The Russian defence ministry said it is conducting drills in the eastern Mediterranean

Russia recently has ferried weapons, troops and supplies to an airport near the Syrian coastal city of Latakia in what the US sees as preparations for setting up an air base there.

Moscow has denied that it is building up its presence there in order to protect its long-time ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but said instead that it wants to help him fight IS.

The defence ministry on Thursday announced the drills "in the eastern section of the Mediterranean" later this month and in October involving a guided missile cruiser, a guided missile destroyer, a landing ship and other ships.

Pre-empting possible questions about the sensitive timing of such maneuvers, the ministry said Russia always holds an array of military drills at this time of the year and that the government approved the Mediterranean maneuvers a year ago.

The Moskva guided missile cruiser left the Russia-controlled port of Sevastopol in Crimea earlier on Thursday and went to the Bosphorus, the ministry said without specifying the destination.