MOSCOW – Russia’s military operation against terrorists in Syria was necessary and helped to preserve the Syrian statehood and defeat the Islamic State (IS, ISIL, ISIS or Daesh), Russian Defense Minister Army Gen. Sergei Shoigu said on Wednesday.
“Sometimes, in the course of ongoing discussions, a question arises whether Russia did the right thing to assume this difficult task. But every time there are all grounds to say: The mission in Syria was necessary and the decision to start the military operation was correct, maybe it was even the only option,” Shoigu stated in an article for the Defense Ministry’s Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper, dedicated to the fifth anniversary of the Russian military operation in Syria.
The active phase of the Russian military operation lasted 804 days, from September 30, 2015, to December 11, 2017. Before the operation began, terrorists controlled over 70% of Syria’s territory and were advancing in all directions while pro-governmental troops were forced to retreat.
“At some point, it became clear that this force [the Islamic State] poses a direct threat not only to the entire region, but to the whole world, including Russia. It was an organization that planned to force the entire humanity obey its rules,” Shoigu added.
“With the support of the Russian aviation, Syria’s armed forces liberated 1,024 populated areas from terrorists. As a result, the government troops and self-defense forces regained control over 88% of the country’s territory,” the defense minister continued.
Shoigu noted that Russia managed to prevent the collapse of the Syrian statehood, stop the war, defeat the Islamic State and also deal a major blow to the entire international terrorist network by disrupting its supply channels.
Moreover, as a result of the operation, more than 3,000 Russian passport holders who joined terrorist organizations fighting in Syria, were prevented from returning to Russia to continue their terrorist activities. From the geopolitical point of view, Russia managed to retain the balance of forces in the Middle East, becoming a key guarantor of regional security.
“The task set by the supreme commander-in-chief five years ago was successfully fulfilled. The Islamic State international terrorist organization ceased to exist in Syria, none of the terrorists managed to find his way into Russia,” the defense minister said.
According to Shoigu, the Islamic State in Syria has been defeated completely.
“Moreover, one can say with full certainty that a major blow was dealt to the entire network of the international terrorism, with its financial sources and resource supply system disrupted,” he added.
The defense minister stated that another important result of the Russian operation is a reliable barrier that prevents terrorist groups from spreading to other territories, especially the neighboring countries. Besides, the operation in Syria demonstrated Russia’s capacity to successfully defend its national interests in any location of the planet and its readiness to provide military support to its allies and partners, Shoigu stated.
In his opinion, the operation also strengthened Russia’s role in the international arena and thwarted its rivals’ attempt to isolate Russia politically and diplomatically. More than 133,000 terrorists have been killed in Syria since Russia launched its military operation in the country, the Russian defense minister added.
“As a result of air raids and cruise missile strikes, 133,542 terrorist facilities were destroyed, including 400 illegal oil refineries and 4,100 refuelers. A total of 865 terrorist warlords and over 133,000 militants were killed, including 4,500 militants from the Russian Federation and CIS countries,” Shoigu said.
“Those armed formations had ideologically dedicated members with decent military training, who pitted themselves against the rest of the world. In fact, they can be described as the world’s first army of terrorists – well-organized and close-knit, with proper training and good weaponry,” Shoigu added.
Planes of Russia’s Aerospace Forces performed over 44,000 combat sorties since the start of the operation. According to the defense minister, Russian President Vladimir Putin tasked the Russian military with eliminating terrorist groups in Syria and preventing terrorists of Russian origin from returning back.