British Prime Minister David Cameron has said he will urge President Vladimir Putin on Monday to focus Russian air strikes in Syria on Islamic State militants.
Russia began bombing Syria in September in support of forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad but has been accused by Washington of targeting mainly groups other than Islamic State, including fighters backed by the United States and its allies.
Almost 80 percent of Russia’s targets in Syria have been in areas not held by Islamic State, a Reuters analysis of Russian Defence Ministry data has shown.
Reuters report that the majority of strikes have been conducted in areas held by groups opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The Reuters analysis only included locations named by the Russian Defence Ministry as targets.
In contrast to Russia, coalition strikes are largely concentrated in areas where Islamic State militants have take control.
At the start of the month, Russian sorties increased significantly up to over 60 sorties a day, a tempo they reportedly maintained for the next 2 days.
According to Reuters:
“Defence ministry statements of targets hit by the Russian Air Force and an online archive of Russian military maps show Russia has hit 64 named locations since President Vladimir Putin ordered the first round of air strikes three weeks ago. Of those targets, a maximum of 15 were in areas held by Islamic State, according to a survey of locations of the rival forces in Syria compiled by the Institute for the Study of War.”
Prior to their military intervention, Russian involvement in the Syrian Civil War had mainly consisted of supplying the Syrian Army. Russia intervened after a formal request from the Syrian government for military help against rebel and jihadist groups in Syria. Officials have acknowledged their objective is to help the Syrian government retake territory, including from opposition fighters backed by the United States. Their intervention could last a year or more, according to reports.
The Russian Federation Council approved the use of Russian military in Syria in response to a request from the Syrian President Bashar Assad. Airstrikes against rebel targets started the same day.