Moscow: Russian airstrikes in Syria have killed hundreds of militants, President Vladimir Putin said on Friday as he called for a shared military effort of ex-Soviet nations to prevent possible militant incursions to Syria from Afghanistan.
Putin told a meeting of leaders of ex-Soviet nations in Kazakhstan that the Russian military has achieved "impressive" results during the air campaign in Syria that began on September 30.
"Dozens of control facilities and ammunition depots, hundreds of terrorists and a large number of weapons have been destroyed," he said.
Putin reaffirmed that the Russian bombing blitz against the Islamic State group and other radicals in Syria will continue "for the period of the Syrian troops' offensive operations against terrorists," but wouldn't elaborate. He said between 5,000 and 7,000 people from Russia and other ex-Soviet nations are fighting alongside Islamic State militants.
"We can't allow them to use the experience they have just gained in Syria back home," he said.
Russian jets have flown more than 600 combat sorties since start of the air campaign, said Col.-Gen. Andrei Kartapolov of the Russian military's General Staff. He shrugged off the U.S. Claim that four of the 26 cruise missiles launched at targets in Syria by Russian navy ships from the southern part of the Caspian Sea had crashed on the Iranian territory.
"The Pentagon may say whatever it wants," he told the daily Komsomolskaya Pravda. "All our missiles reached their targets."
Kartapolov said the Russian jets haven't yet faced any surface-to-air missiles and warned that their use by the rebels would signal a foreign involvement.
He also reacted angrily to US Defence Secretary Ash Carter's comments warning that Russia would suffer casualties in Syria and describing their operation as "highly unprofessional."
Kartapolov said Russian air and land assets in Syria will be pulled together with its Soviet-era Tartus navy facility in one base.
Putin, speaking in Kazakhstan, said the situation in Afghanistan is "close to critical" and called on other ex-Soviet nations to be prepared to act together to repel a possible attack.