David Cameron calls Russian airstrikes in Syria 'a terrible mistake'

Published October 5th, 2015 - 08:00 GMT

David Cameron has said Russian President Vladimir Putin is making “a terrible mistake” by sending jets to prop up Syrian tyrant Bashar al-Assad.

The Prime Minister said most of the Russian airstrikes in Syria appeared to have been in areas not controlled by Islamic State but by other opponents of the regime.

He told the BBC the Russians were “backing the butcher Assad, which is a terrible mistake for them and for the world. It is going to make the region more unstable. It will lead to further radicalisation and increase terrorism.

“I would say to them: ‘Change direction, join us in attacking Isil, but recognise that if we want to have a secure region, we need an alternative leader to Assad’.”

Russia insists it is bombing IS. Moscow’s defence ministry said its warplanes flew 20 missions at the weekend, striking ten IS targets.

But Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told the Tory conference Russia could not bomb IS and support the Syrian leader.

He warned: “Assad, with his barrel bombs and his chemical weapons and his wholesale slaughter of civilians, is the recruiting sergeant for Isil.

“Russian support for him will drive the opposition in Syria into the arms of Isil, strengthening the evil that Putin says he wants to defeat.”

Also at the conference, Mr Cameron said Britain’s squadron of killer drones would be doubled and the SAS “beefed up” to fight Islamic State.

He announced plans to replace the ten-strong Reaper fleet with 20 US-made Protector unmanned aircraft. And special forces would get extra cash.

Cardiff jihadist Reyaad Khan, 21, was killed in Syria in August in a drone strike. More Syria-based jihadists will be targeted by the drones as a “last resort”, the PM said, adding: “It’s only the right thing to do if there are no other avenues you can take.”

Meanwhile, President Assad said a year-long air campaign by Western and Arab air forces had helped terrorism spread and win new recruits. Speaking yesterday on Iranian television he said a coalition of Syria, Russia, Iran and Iraq could achieve real results.

“It must succeed otherwise we face the destruction of the entire region, not only one or two states,” he said.

By Ben Glaze

Copyright © 2022 Trinity Mirror Group

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