Russia begins air strikes in Syria

(AGI) Rome, Sept 30 - The Russian military has begun carryingout air strikes in Syria, the U.S. administration hasconfirmed. The Russian parliament gave the go-ahead onWednesday morning, following a request from President VladimirPutin. This is the first time Russia has sent troops to fightoutside the country since its blitzkreig on Georgia in 2008.The Russian air force operations, of which the Pentagon wasgiven advance notice, will be carried out within a "specifictime frame" and "will not be allowed to continue indefinitely".Kremlin Chief of Staff Sergei Ivanov said he could not say, for

(AGI) Rome, Sept 30 - The Russian military has begun carryingout air strikes in Syria, the U.S. administration hasconfirmed. The Russian parliament gave the go-ahead onWednesday morning, following a request from President VladimirPutin. This is the first time Russia has sent troops to fightoutside the country since its blitzkreig on Georgia in 2008.The Russian air force operations, of which the Pentagon wasgiven advance notice, will be carried out within a "specifictime frame" and "will not be allowed to continue indefinitely".Kremlin Chief of Staff Sergei Ivanov said he could not say, forobvious reasons, what that timeframe would be, how many days itwould last and what types of weapons would be deployed.Ministry of Defence Spokesman Major General Igor Konashenko hasofficially confirmed U.S. media reports that Russian planes hadbegun air strikes in the Syrian Arab Republic against terroristgroups associated with Islamic State (IS). According to Syriangovernment sources, the first raids targeted terrorist posts inthe provinces of Hama, Homs and Latakia. The choice of thesethree areas has perplexed the U.S. and France, as they are keento have Bashar al-Assad removed from power before a period ofpolitical transition begins. "If they have hit Homs, as itwould seem", said a French military source, the target is notIS but most probably opposition groups. This confirms that theRussians are helping Assad rather than fighting the Daesh (IS).The areas that have been hit are controlled by al-Nusra rebels,with links to Al Qaeda, and by an armed coalition hostile tothe Damascus regime. The Governor of Homs Province, Talalal-Barazi, said Syrian air force planes alone had carried outthe strikes and that the Russians had merely been carrying outreconnaissance operations. The Syrian opposition and the SyrianObservatory for Human Rights reported that 36 civilians hadbeen killed in strikes carried out by Russia and Syria in Homs,where, said Khaled Khoja, head of the Turkey-based oppositioncoalition, "we fought and beat IS a year ago". Russia's actionis supported not just by Syria, but also by Iran and Iraq. Thecoordination centre for the sharing of intelligence material inIraq's capital Baghdad is the point of reference for Russianoperations in Syria. Moscow hopes Damascus will be open to the"compromise" that it will put before the UN, which is aproposal for a resolution for "coordinating the troops fightingIS and other terrorist groups", said Russia Foreign MinisterSergei Lavrov. Mr Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerryspoke on Wednesday, the latter reminding him that his country'smove was "not helpful". (AGI). .