Putin seeks closer ties with West in Syria

MOSCOW -- Russia has provided air cover to a leading Western-backed opposition group in Syria, President Vladimir Putin said Friday, calling for closer co-ordination with the U.S.

See Full Article

-allied coalition -- comments that may reflect Moscow's desire to narrow differences with the West over the Syrian crisis.

At the same time, Putin vowed to further modernize Russia's military and said its forces in Syria will "immediately destroy" any target threatening them, a strong warning to Turkey following its downing of a Russian warplane at the Syrian border.

Speaking at a meeting with top Defence Ministry officials, Putin said while supporting the Syrian government forces, Russia also has provided air cover, weapons and supplies to some units of the Free Syrian Army, a Western-backed opposition group fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad's army.

Several hours later, Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov refuted the president's statement that Russia is sending weapons and supplies to the FSA. Peskov told reporters that Putin meant to say that Russia is sending weapons and supplies to Syrian government forces but also provides air cover to the FSA.

Moscow has been accused by the West of striking moderate rebels to back up Assad instead of its declared goal, the Islamic State group.

Russia's Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russian warplanes have flown 4,000 combat sorties in Syria since Moscow launched its air campaign on Sept. 30, destroying 8,000 "terrorist" targets. He added that Russia moved 214,000 metric tons of supplies to support the military action in Syria and helped restore a tank repair factory in the Syrian province of Homs.

Without naming Turkey, Putin said the military should respond in full force to any further "provocations." He said the Russian military base in Syria has been beefed up with additional aircraft and air defence weapons.

"I order you to act in the toughest way," Putin said. "Any targets threatening the Russian groups of forces or our land infrastructure should be immediately destroyed."

At the same time, he said the military should "develop co-operation with all countries, which have a real interest in destroying terrorists," specifically mentioning the need to co-ordinate with the U.S.-led coalition and Israel to ensure flight safety.

Speaking on a visit to Rome, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov offered a rare praise for the U.S.-led coalition, saying Moscow is glad to see it has "intensified its activities," targeting oil facilities and trucks in IS-controlled territories. He emphasized the need to shut the Syrian border with Turkey, saying that Turkey's downing of a Russian warplane amounted to a "coverup of terrorists."

The downing of a Russian bomber by a Turkish fighter jet on Nov. 24, the first time a NATO member shot down a Russian plane in more than half a century, has badly strained the relations between Moscow and Ankara.

Turkey said it downed the Russian plane after it violated its airspace for 17 seconds despite repeated warnings, while Russia has insisted the plane had remained in Syrian airspace. Putin has denounced the Turkish action as a "treacherous stab in the back" and ordered the deployment of S-400 long-range air defence missile systems to a Russian base in Syria. Russia also has introduced a slew of economic sanctions against Turkey.

Turkey's foreign minister said Friday his country is refraining from responding to Russian efforts to hit back at Turkey over the plane's downing, but added the country's patience has limits. "If we are not responding to all that they have done until now, it is not because we are afraid or because of any psychology of guilt," Mevlut Cavusoglu told NTV television.

Putin said the Russian military action in Syria is essential for protecting Russia from extremists based there. He has previously said between 5,000 and 7,000 citizens of Russia and other ex-Soviet nations have joined the Islamic State group.

"Our action there hasn't been prompted by some abstract geopolitical interests or a desire to train and test new weapons systems, which is important too," Putin said. "The main thing is to avert a threat to the Russian Federation."

Putin named "strengthening of the combat potential of strategic nuclear forces and the implementation of space defence programs" as a key priority.

Russia's ambitious arms modernization program has continued at full pace this year, even though low oil prices and Western sanctions drove the economy into recession this year.

Shoigu said the military has received 35 new intercontinental ballistic missiles, 243 aircraft, 90 air defence systems and 1,172 tanks and other armoured vehicles so far this year.

He added 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.

The military also expanded its presence in the Arctic, building several new bases and other military facilities there.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Human rights groups decry Philippine president's threat to bomb schools

    World News CBC News
    Human rights groups asked the Philippine president Wednesday to retract a threat to order airstrikes against tribal schools he accused of teaching students to become communist rebels, warning such an attack would constitute a war crime. Source
  • 'Pharma Bro' Martin Shkreli won't stop talking, except to jury in trial

    World News CTV News
    NEW YORK -- "Pharma Bro" Martin Shkreli says on social media that he's being railroaded at his securities fraud trial, but he won't be defending himself in court. Jurors heard testimony from the government's last witness on Tuesday, a day after a lawyer for the former biotech CEO told the court that his client had chosen not to take the witness stand. Source
  • Ohio set to end 3-year hiatus with execution of child killer

    World News CTV News
    LUCASVILLE, Ohio -- Ohio is preparing to put a condemned child killer to death in the state's first execution in more than three years. Forty-three-year-old Ronald Phillips is scheduled to die Wednesday at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville. Source
  • Rights groups ask Duterte to retract threat to bomb schools

    World News CTV News
    MANILA, Philippines -- Human rights groups asked the Philippine president Wednesday to retract a threat to order airstrikes against tribal schools he accused of teaching students to become communist rebels, warning such an attack would constitute a war crime. Source
  • Wild New Zealand rabbits surf on sheep to escape floodwaters

    World News CTV News
    WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- Three wild rabbits managed to escape rising floodwaters in New Zealand by clambering aboard a flock of sheep and surfing to safety on their woolly backs. Sixty-four-year-old Ferg Horne says he's been farming since he left school at age 15 and has never seen anything quite like it. Source
  • Orca whale repeatedly rams fishing boat, Alaska man says

    World News Toronto Sun
    SITKA, Alaska — An Alaska man said his boat was attacked over the weekend by an orca during a salmon fishing excursion with his 14-year-old son and two other people. Victor Littlefield of Sitka said the killer whale repeatedly rammed the boat, yanked its anchor line and slapped the boat’s bow with its tail. Source
  • Man accused of smuggling king cobras in potato chip cans

    World News Toronto Sun
    LOS ANGELES — A man was arrested on federal smuggling charges Tuesday after customs officers intercepted a shipment with three live king cobras hidden inside potato chip canisters that were being mailed to his California home, U.S. Source
  • Europe rights court: Sex still important for older women

    World News CTV News
    LISBON, Portugal -- Judges in Portugal were guilty of sexual discrimination in a medical compensation case when they decided that the importance of sex diminished with the age of a woman, Europe's human rights court ruled in a judgment published Tuesday. Source
  • Toronto courier company offers work, support to those with developmental disabilities

    Canada News CTV News
    For many people with developmental disabilities, finding a full-time job that provides the necessary support is a major challenge. It’s estimated that more than 70 per cent of Canadian adults with developmental disabilities are unemployed, according to Statistics Canada. Source
  • Australia's highest-ranking Catholic in court to face sex charges

    World News CBC News
    The most senior Vatican official ever charged in the Catholic Church sex abuse crisis made his first court appearance in Australia on Wednesday in a scandal that has stunned the Holy See and threatened to tarnish the pope's image as a crusader against abusive clergy. Source