Activists are reporting strikes on Aleppo (those claims need corroboration)
Link "Today at 10:30 and 11 am (0730 and 0800 GMT), we started a major operation to conduct mass fire damage on the Islamic State and the Al-Nusra Front's positions in the Idlib and Homs provinces," Shoigu was quoted as saying by TASS news agency, using the former name of Fateh al-Sham Front.
"For the first time in our naval history, the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov started taking part in combat," he added.
Link: Russia announced a major air offensive in Syria on Tuesday as Syrian opposition activists reported the first airstrikes in three weeks in the besieged, rebel-held part of the northern city of Aleppo.
|WSJ provides us with an image from the rebel occupied section of Aleppo|
WSJ—Russia resumed large-scale airstrikes around Syria Tuesday, launching what the U.S. and its allies fear could lead to a devastating assault on the besieged city of Aleppo and set off a wider humanitarian crisis.UPDATE:
The strikes, which included the use of Kaliber cruise missiles, hit the provinces of Idlib and Homs, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in remarks carried by state television.
“We started a large operation to deliver massive fire strikes on ISIS positions,” Mr. Shoigu said. Mr. Shoigu didn’t make direct reference to Aleppo, but said factories used to make chemical weapons were also being targeted and destroyed.
“This is the first time in history that the Russian navy has used the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier,” Mr. Shoigu said.
"The main targets of the strikes are warehouses with ammunition, [terrorist] gatherings and terrorist training centers, as well as plants for the production of various kinds of weapons of mass destruction of the population," Shoigu detailed.
He stressed that terrorists had actual factories, not merely workshops, for weapons production. "They are factories, not workshops, more specifically the plants for the production of all sorts of rather serious means of mass destruction."
"Clearly, this is a well-established industrial production, these are the targets for today's strikes. And they will continue," the minister stated.
The minister noted that the Russian military had thoroughly surveilled the targets before striking them, choosing the most important.
"You are aware that we have sent a large group of our radiation, chemical and biological protection troops to determine the toxic substances which are used by terrorists. Within the past week they used them twice – in one case, 27 people were hospitalized and three died, in the other case 30 people were hospitalized – I mean the Syrian Army soldiers," Shoigu said.
Journalists asked presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov about the possibility of the operation which started on Tuesday to be expanded to include Aleppo.
"Aleppo has not been mentioned in the report of the defense minister; it concerned other areas – Homs and Idlib [provinces]," Peskov told the press.
Air cover for Russian forces
President Vladimir Putin previously ordered the Defense Ministry to provide reliable air cover for the Russian forces in Syria. On Tuesday, Shoigu said the Russian military has been covered with S-300 and S-400 Triumph air defense systems.
“The S-400 has been running for a long time now. Apart from that, we have added S-300 to cover the sea area, nearly all the way to Cyprus,” the minister said.
“Additionally, the Bastion coastal missile complexes have covered almost the entire coastline,” Shoigu said, noting that “with these complexes, we are able to destroy both sea and ground targets” at distances of 350km for sea targets and nearly 450km for ground targets.
Shoigu noted that the issue of providing cover from low-flying targets has also been solved.
“That’s what the Pantsir complexes have been deployed there for,” he said, also reporting that Syrian S-200 air defense systems have been restored over the past four months.
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