A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin has refuted the president’s statement earlier Friday that Russia is supplying weapons to a leading Western-backed opposition group in Syria. Putin said Russia has provided air cover, weapons and supplies to the Free Syrian Army and called for closer coordination with the U.S.-allied coalition, a statement that may reflect Moscow’s desire to narrow differences with the West over the Syrian crisis.
But Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters the president did not mean to say that Russia is supplying the FSA with weapons and supplies. He said it is only providing air cover. Moscow has been accused by the West of striking moderate rebels opposing Syrian President Bashar Assad instead of targeting Islamic State militants in Syria.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has lauded the U.S.-led coalition for intensifying its airstrikes on the positions of Islamic State militants.
Lavrov said during a news conference in Rome on Friday that Moscow is glad to see that the Western coalition has “intensified its activities” a few months after Russia launched its campaign in Syria. Lavrov said he was pleased to see the United States and its allies target oil facilities and trucks in the IS-controlled territories.
The U.S., Russia and regional powers are expected to gather at the United Nations on Dec. 18 for a planned international diplomatic meeting on Syria at which the U.N. Security Council expects to adopt a resolution in support of peace talks between the Syrian government and the opposition.
Turkey’s foreign minister says his country is refraining from responding to Russian efforts to hit back at Turkey over its downing of a Russian jet, but says the country’s patience is not without limits.
Mevlut Cavusoglu said Friday that Turkey wants to overcome tensions with Russia but that Moscow is using “every opportunity” to hit at Turkey.
The downing of the jet has brought previously warm ties between Turkey and Russia to a post-Cold War low. Russia slapped economic sanctions on Turkey and recently took the issue of Turkey’s deployment of troops in Iraq to the United Nations Security Council.
Russia’s defense minister says the military has received 35 new intercontinental ballistic missiles this year as part of an ambitious arms modernization effort.
Sergei Shoigu said Friday that the military also has received 243 aircraft, 90 air defense systems and 1,172 tanks and other armored vehicles so far this year.
Shoigu, who was speaking during President Vladimir Putin’s meeting with top military brass, said that the navy received two new nuclear-powered submarines equipped with intercontinental ballistic missiles, two general-purpose submarines and eight surface warships so far this year.
He said that a steady series of military exercises have helped improve servicemen’s skills and contributed to a successful performance of Russian pilots during the ongoing air campaign in Syria.
Russia’s defense minister says Russian warplanes have flown a total of 4,000 combat sorties in Syria since the launch of air campaign there.
Sergei Shoigu said Friday Russian aircraft have destroyed 8,000 “terrorist” targets in Syria since the strikes began on Sept. 30.
He added that Russia helped restore a tank repair factory in the Syrian province of Homs, which he said is now working at full scale.
President Vladimir Putin says that a Russian military action in Syria is aimed at protecting Russia from extremists based there.
He said Friday at a meeting with the top military brass that the extremists pose a “clear threat” to Russia. He said fending off that threat is the main goal of the air campaign Russia launched on Sept. 30.
Putin said the Russian military action helped change the situation in Syria, supporting the Syrian army offensive. He said that Russia was also helping some units of the opposition Free Syrian Army, which were fighting “terrorists” in Syria, providing air cover and supplying them with weapons.
Russian President Vladimir Putin says the military should “immediately destroy” any targets threatening its forces in Syria.
He said Friday at a meeting with top military brass that the Russian military base in Syria has been beefed up with additional aircraft and air defense weapons.
The buildup followed the downing of a Russian warplane by a Turkish fighter jet at the Syrian border on Nov. 24. Without naming Turkey, Putin warned anyone against “further provocations,” saying the military will respond in “the toughest way.”