Russian Lawmakers Approve Troops for Syria, Launch Airstrikes Against IS Positions

Russia’s defense ministry says its jets are carrying out airstrikes on Syria against positions, vehicles and warehouses believed to belong to the Islamic State.

Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin asked for and received parliamentary approval Wednesday to use Russian armed forces in Syria in the fight against Islamic State, the Kremlin’s chief of staff told journalists.

The Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian legislature, unanimously approved Putin’s request, Sergei Ivanov said after the 162-0 vote.

Russia’s constitution requires lawmakers’ endorsement of any use of Russian armed forces abroad and commits the government to cover all “social and financial issues” in support of the troops’ foreign deployment.

“The operation’s military goal is exclusively air support of the Syrian armed forces in their fight against ISIL,” Ivanov said, according to the Tass news agency. He was using the acronym for Islamic State in the Levant, one of several names for the Islamist extremists holding nearly half of Syrian territory.

A Russian official in Baghdad informed US Embassy personnel Wednesday morning that Russian military aircraft would begin flying anti-Islamic State missions over Syria, said a US official, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

The Russian military requested that US aircraft avoid Syrian airspace during these missions, the official said.

Russia has deployed warplanes, helicopters, tanks and naval forces to western Syria in recent weeks in a move that Western leaders feared might signal the Kremlin’s intent to deploy forces to protect embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad, a key Russian ally in the Middle East.