Russia Bombs Syria Using Jets, Missiles From Naval Strike Force

  • Aircraft carrier used for first time in attacks, Shoigu says
  • Pause on Aleppo attacks remains in effect, Kremlin says

The Admiral Kuznetsov carrier seen in the Barents Sea, Russia in 2014.

Photographer: AP Photo

Russia said its air force started a major offensive in Syria, involving jets and missiles launched from a naval task force sent to the Mediterranean to support attacks on militants.

Operations began in the Syrian provinces of Idlib and Homs against Islamic State and the al-Qaeda spinoff Jabhat al-Nusra, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told President Vladimir Putin at a meeting Tuesday in Russia’s Sochi. “We have been gathering very detailed intelligence” about targets that include militants’ training centers and “factories for producing quite serious weapons of mass destruction,” Shoigu said.

Russia carried out attacks from an aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, for the first time in the navy’s history, sending jets to strike “terrorists’ factories” in Syria, Shoigu told Putin. Cruise missiles were also launched from a warship during the operation and strikes will continue in support of the Syrian army, he said.

The assault was announced hours after Putin held phone talks with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump that the Kremlin said included discussion of efforts to fight international terrorism and to end the war in Syria. The war has killed more than 300,000 people and sent millions fleeing to neighboring countries and to Europe. A cease-fire deal in September negotiated by the U.S. and Russia collapsed within days. While the U.S. and Europe backed opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Putin turned the tide of the war in the government’s favor by ordering Russia’s military to begin airstrikes in September last year.

The Russian air force hasn’t resumed attacks on the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, which wasn’t included in Shoigu’s report to Putin, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call Tuesday.

Russian and Syrian forces declared a “humanitarian pause” on strikes in Aleppo on Oct. 18 amid international outrage over attacks on the city, where some 275,000 remain trapped. Putin rejected a request last month by the military to resume airstrikes. In the past week, Russia has repeatedly accusing militants in Aleppo of attacking Syrian servicemen using chemical weapons containing chlorine gas.

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