Press Digest SPECIAL: What are the scenarios for Moscow's Syrian campaign?

Russian Aerospace Forces engaged another four ISIS facilities this night. Source: Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation

Russian Aerospace Forces engaged another four ISIS facilities this night. Source: Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation

RBTH presents a selection of views from leading Russian media on Russia’s air campaign against targets in Syria, featuring analysis of the potential scenarios for further air strikes, as well as reports on the sites being targeted and the controversy over whether these sites are actually in areas held by Islamic State (ISIS) militants.

Options for air strikes

The bombing of ISIS positions in Syria by the Russian air force, which began on Wednesday, Sept. 30, could be held in two scenarios – defensive and offensive, reports the business daily Kommersant.

As the newspaper notes, the essence of the first scenario is to help the government forces of President Bashar al-Assad to maintain the Mediterranean coast and the surrounding area under their control.

"This is where the Alawites – President Bashar al-Assad's coreligionists, on whom his government mainly relies – live in close proximity. There are two very important port cities there – Latakia and Tartus (the latter hosts a logistical support base for the Russian Navy)," writes the newspaper.

The second, offensive scenario, the newspaper notes, could be carried out in parallel with the defensive one. It is clearly riskier for Russia, but at the same time – more advantageous in terms of its international image, says the article.

"The ideal option in terms of the propaganda effect would be the liberation of Palmyra, with its ancient ruins, from ISIS," the article says.

According to the experts interviewed by Kommersant, this would be well within the capabilities of the Russian special forces with the support of the air force and Syrian troops.

Citing a source in the operational control of the military, the newspaper also reports on the composition of the Russian air force group in Syria.

According to Kommersant, a full-fledged mixed air group was formed on the Hmeymim airfield near Latakia. It consists of Su-24M and Su-34 strike fighters, Su-25SM ground attack aircraft and Su-30SM multi-role fighters, as well as Mi-24 attack helicopters and Mi-8 multi-role helicopters, adopted by the Russian air and space forces.


Lavrov asks for evidence

The Russian daily RBK quotes Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who has asked Washington to provide evidence that Russia had not carried out air strikes on ISIS positions. Earlier, the Pentagon said that areas where there were no terrorists had been attacked.

"There is a concern on the part of our American partners that perhaps the targets were not the right ones, they expressed these concerns to us, they claimed that they had some evidence. We asked them to present [the evidence], because we answer for our targets," said Lavrov.

According to Lavrov, the Russian air force is carrying out airstrikes exclusively on targets related to ISIS.

"I drew the attention of my American colleague to the fact that the concern expressed by him that the targets of these attacks were not ISIS positions is groundless," he said.


Russian air force targets ISIS pipelines

The liberal newspaper Novaya Gazeta reports that one of the objectives of the Russian military action in Syria is the elimination of one of ISIS's most important financing channels via the bombing of oil pipelines used by the Islamists to sell oil illegally.

Earlier, the newspaper reported that "in the first place, the coordinates of pumping stations that maintain the pressure in the pipeline that carries the terrorist organization ISIS's oil were fed to the onboard computers of attack aircraft and bombers in Syria, not just the details of the places where the leaders of the terrorists were based."

Novaya Gazeta claims that it received information about consultations of the military with oil specialists.

"Representatives of the Ministry of Defense were primarily interested in the question which points of pumping stations, responsible for the pumping of oil through the pipeline, must be put out of action to prevent the possibility of pumping oil, and therefore illegal trade in raw materials," writes the newspaper.


Syria and Gazprom

The overthrow of Assad's regime in Syria threatens to change the balance of the European gas market, as in this case Qatar can build a direct pipeline through Syrian territory to Turkey, writes the news website

In this regard, the newspaper points out, bolstering Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad may be advantageous to Russia in terms of competition on the European gas market.

It is Syria that is the best route for gas supplies from Qatar, which is already one of the largest suppliers to the EU market, to Turkey, and thence to Europe.

However, the political analysts interviewed by the newspaper say that the terrorists from ISIS fighting in Syria have become too independent of their "sponsors" and building a pipeline through Syria would be a very risky business, even if Assad loses.

All rights reserved by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

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