Russia has launched cruise missiles on the same day that, after weeks of dodging the question, the Kremlin has finally come out today and said that Metrojet flight 9268 was brought down by terrorism.
The Russian Ministry of Defence has released video footage of their strategic bombers attacking Syria from airbases inside the Russian Federation:
This is, as far as we are aware, the first time that the veteran Tu-95 ‘Bear’ bomber or the Tu-160 have ever been used in combat.
The cruise missiles released appear to be Kh-555s, as identified earlier from wreckage found in Maarat al-Numan:
The rebel-held town and its surrounding area have been subjected to near-daily bombing by Russian jets since the air offensive began on September 30.
On November 13, locals reported that Russian jets had bombed neighbouring villages with incendiary weapons, purportedly white phosphorus:
According to the MOD, 25 strategic bombers will now be flying sorties from Russian airfields, with 37 new Su-34s and Su-27s joining the deployment in Latakia.
— Pierre Vaux
The Telegraph is reporting that Russian helicopters are being used to transport Iraqi militias to fight in Syria. The report cites photographs of Iraqi militiamen standing in front of Russian helicopters as supporting evidence for a a claim made on Twitter by the Assyrian Christian militia, the Gozarto Protection Force, that they are fighting on behalf of the Assad regime.
The militia members have reportedly been airlifted to the Christian town of Sadad, positioned south of Homs and north of Damascus.
Sadad (map) is highlighted on the map on the right below. To the left is the latest assessment of the situation in Syria. While Sadad is not too far from areas where ISIS operates, it is not on the front lines of this fight.
Iraqi Shia militias have joined the Syrian regime’s fight against ISIS and other rebel groups in northern Syria near Aleppo.
The Telegraph also reports that this is an expanded role for Russia’s helicopters:
Experts said the apparent Russian decision to move helicopters closer to the front lines would allow Moscow to increase the intensity of its operations, but also risked exposing its personnel to more danger, complicate logistics, and stretch the available force protection assets.
In analysis published last week, Janes Defence Weekly, a specialist defence magazine, said the moves appeared to demonstrate a willingness “to risk the lives of its personnel to maximise the amount of fire support its contingent in Syria can provide to pro-government forces fighting on the frontline.”
US defence officials say Russia has deployed helicopter gunships to the central provinces of Hama and Homs, with another 34 fixed-wing aircraft stationed at the Humaymin Air Base in Mr Assad’s coastal heartland of Latakia.
Read the article here:
Russia transporting militia groups fighting Islamic State to frontlines in Syria
Moscow joined Syria's war on 30 September, launching airstrikes on rebel groups as they pushed close to the regime's north-western heartlands and offering air support to its ground offensives across the country. Although Russia's military force in Syria is now estimated to stand at around 4,000 personnel, the intervention has forced few concrete gains.
Russia Update: Kremlin Finally Admits Metrojet Flight Was Downed By Bomb
The Kremlin has finally admitted what other governments and experts have been saying for weeks – that the Metrojet flight downed over the Sinai on October 31 was destroyed by a bomb. FSB chief Aleksandr Bortnikov told President Putin during a for-camera briefing that traces of explosives had been found among the wreckage.
Reuters reports that the United States received notice that Russia was launching a “significant number” of attacks on Al Raqqah, the ISIS stronghold in eastern Syria, but the US stressed that it is not cooperating with Russia:
“The Russians did provide us notice prior to conducting these strikes, via the Coalition Combined Air Operations Center in Qatar,” the defense official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The Independent has more details:
The French daily Le Monde cited senior French government officials as saying Russian missiles had struck Isis positions in Raqqa, its de facto capital in its Syrian territories.
According to reports, Russian officials gave their US counterparts notice ahead of the strikes, in a sign of closer cooperation between the two states after talks between Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama at the G20 summit.
Videos and pictures on social media confirm that cruise missiles have been used today.
The independent business daily RBC reports that a Russian submarine was used to launch cruise missiles for the first time (translated by The Interpreter):
The Russian diesel and electric submarine Rostov-on-Don, en route from the Northern Fleet to Novorossiysk launched Caliber cruise missiles from the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea at targets on the outskirts of the Syrian city of Raqqa, capital of the Islamic State (ISIS), banned in Russia, a source close to the Defense Ministry told RBC.ru
The results of the strikes are now being analyzed with the use of air and space reconnaissance. According to the source, the strike was delivered after Russian President Vladimir Putin instructed that strikes be stepped up on the terrorists in connection with their involvement in the Russian Metrojet Airbus A321 crash in Egypt.
The targets of the strikes from the Rostov-on-Don were training bases, headquarters, weapons and ammunition depots, as well as deployment areas of detachments of fighters. The strike was made not by ballistic trajectory but by grazing fire at a height of a few kilometers in order to avoid incidents due to increased ship traffic in the Mediterranean.
The launch from the Rostov-on-Don was the first case of the use of cruise missiles from a submarine on targets of a real enemy in the history of the armed forces of Russia, said the source.
— James Miller, Catherine A. Fitzpatrick