Russian air strikes in Syria: 'Western critics are just jealous of our success', claims senior Russian politician

The US-led international coalition has called on Vladimir Putin's forces to stop allegedly hitting anti-Assad rebels and civilians

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The Independent Online

International concerns raised over Russia’s air strikes in Syria by Western governments are motivated purely by jealousy, a senior Russian politician has claimed.

Konstantin Kosachev, head of the Federation Council’s foreign affairs committee, was quoted by state media as saying that the US and its allies “cannot bear the thought” of Russian success in the conflict.

“As long as the Syrian Army is the only structured force leading ground combat against Isis, the only effective use of air power in this war is the co-ordination of action on the ground and in the sky, or in co-operation with government forces,” he said in Moscow.

“This is the only chance for a successful operation.”

The senator repeated Vladimir Putin’s accusations of “information warfare” against Russia and suggested nations in the US-led coalition would prefer to see Islamists win the Syrian war than work with the Kremlin.

Suggesting that the West “could not bear the thought of Russian success”, Mr Kosachev added: “Would they prefer to lose Syria and other countries in the region to Islamists, rather than supporting Russia, and prevent it from performing a common and very important task for the whole of humanity?”

His comments came as the US, Britain and members of the international coalition bombing Isis urged Russia to stop attacking the Syrian opposition and expressed “deep concern” over its intervention.

A joint statement listed attacks by Vladimir Putin’s air force in Hama, Homs and Idlib provinces that “led to civilian casualties” and did not target Isis.

“These military actions constitute a further escalation and will only fuel more extremism and radicalisation,” it continued.

“We call on the Russian Federation to immediately cease its attacks on the Syrian opposition and civilians and to focus its efforts on fighting Isis.”

Civil defence workers in the aftermath of the Russian air strike on Talbiseh, Syria, which killed dozens of civilians

The call from the governments of France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, UK and US follows persistent claims that many of Russia’s air strikes have hit Syrian rebels and civilians since the start of its campaign on Wednesday.

Mr Putin’s official spokesperson seemed to shift the Kremlin’s position on Thursday, telling journalists that Russian forces were targeting a list of “well-known organisations” chosen in co-ordination with the Syrian regime.

Previous statements and speeches had focused specifically on Isis and the change did nothing to reassure observers concerned that Russia could hit all opponents of its controversial ally, Bashar al-Assad, including moderate rebels once backed by the US.

The Russian defence ministry said it had carried out 18 strikes by Friday morning, including 10 on seven separate sites overnight.

A spokesperson said that the latest wave of attacks targeted only Isis and destroyed a command post near Daret Azzeh, in Aleppo, and wiped out bunkers and weapons stores near Maaret al-Numan in Idlib.

The jets appeared to be primarily bombing central and north-western Syria, which are particularly strategic for President Assad’s regime, lying along major motorways linking government strongholds from Damascus to the coast.