Press Digest: UK launches airstrikes against ISIS positions in Syria

Pilots and ground crew prepare a Tornado at R.A.F. Marham.

Pilots and ground crew prepare a Tornado at R.A.F. Marham.

Photoshot/Vostock Photo
RBTH presents a selection of views from leading Russian media on international events, featuring reports on the beginning of British airstrikes against Islamic State (ISIS) in eastern Syria, alleged preparations by Russia to set up a second Syrian air base, and an initiative proposed by a St. Petersburg official to punish unemployed Russians who make large purchases without formal income sources.

UK starts bombing campaign against Islamic State in Syria

The British Royal Air Force (RAF) has launched airstrikes against Islamic State (ISIS) positions in Syria, reports the business daily Kommersant. The operation was authorized by the House of Commons of the British Parliament on Dec. 2 and began several hours later, targeting the ISIS-controlled oil fields in the east of Syria.

At the same time, British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond said in an interview to Channel 4 News that "there is one person in the world who can bring this madness [the civil war in Syria – Kommersant] to an end immediately and that is Mr. Putin, by picking up the telephone to Mr. Assad and telling him the game is over."

"And, when the time is right, that is what I expect will happen," he added.

Hammond described Russia and the UK as partners in the fight against ISIS.

"It is important that the British Parliament has formally adopted a decision on the country's military operation against the ISIS militants in Syria, rather than in support of the anti-government opposition," Konstantin Kosachev, head of international affairs for Russia’s upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, wrote on his Facebook page.  

Ministry of Defense to set up second air base in Syria

Russia is preparing to add a second airbase to Khmeimim in Syria, the news website Svobodnaya Pressa reports, citing British newspaper The Times and Kuwaiti daily Al-Rai. New equipment and units will be deployed at the airbase in Shayrat, 22 miles to the southeast of the city of Homs in central Syria.

The new facility, according to the media reports, will host more than 50 aircraft, an intelligence and special forces brigade, and support personnel.

Russian combat helicopters and troops, which are preparing the site, are already at the airbase in Shayrat. In addition, the base is currently hosting Syrian air force units, specifically MiG-23s, MiG-25s and Su-22s. Moscow is said to also be sending a large number of multiple rocket launchers and TOS-1 flame-throwing systems to Syria.

The Defense Ministry has declined to comment on reports about the expansion of Russia’s military operation in Syria.

According to Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov, the former chief of the Russian Defense Ministry's Directorate for International Military Cooperation (1996-2001), the need for the deployment of a second air base in Syria is overdue, "firstly, to increase the number of air strikes against the militants.

"Secondly, to deploy an additional quantity of fighter aircraft for the protection of the existing grouping, as well as for the transfer of aircraft radar reconnaissance in charge of the guidance of aircraft and cruise missiles onto the positions of the Islamists," said Ivashov.

"I do not exclude that the A-50 AEW [airborne early warning and control] aircraft will be added to the Il-20M, which is already flying in the sky over Syria. The MTA [military transport aircraft] grouping will also grow – for supplying ammunition, and so on," he said.

Official calls for jobless big spenders to be given correctional labor terms

A St. Petersburg official has proposed to punish unemployed Russians who make large purchases without having formal sources of income, by sentencing them to correctional labor for between three months and three years, with citizens' spending to be controlled by the tax authorities, reports the daily broadsheet Izvestiya.

The relevant bill has been drawn up by Andrei Anokhin, a member of St. Petersburg's Legislative Assembly.

Anokhin believes that citizens whose expenses amount to more than 1 million rubles ($15,000) per year but who do not have officially confirmed sources of income must be held administratively liable. At the end of this week, the bill will be submitted to the Legislative Assembly of St. Petersburg for subsequent submission to the lower house of Russia’s parliament, the State Duma.

"In the Soviet Union, there was a balance of labor resources, and the state guaranteed employment for everyone," said Yekaterina Samrailova, head of the Department of Labour and Human Resources Economics of the Academy of Labor and Social Affairs.

"In Russia, there is no responsibility of the state to provide employment – the number of vacancies in this country does not exceed the number of unemployed people and those who work without formal employment," she claimed.

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