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13 June 2012

Russia begins airstrikes in Syria “at the request of Bashar al-Assad”

Sources in Washington report being given an hour to clear Syrian airspace as Russia votes for military intervention.

By Stephanie Boland

Russia has reportedly begun airstrikes against Isis in Syria “at the request of the Syrian president”.

Following diplomatic friction between US president Barack Obama and Russian premiere Vladimir Putin at the UN general assembly, Reuters reports that Russia gave the US an hour to clear Syrian airspace before beginning flights.

State sources revealed this morning that Federation Council, the upper house in Russia’s parliament, voted unanimously for military intervention. Russia is expected to only use its air force and will not send in ground troops.

The last time the Federation Council authorised the use of military force outside the confederation was in March of last year, when it gave permission for Putin to send forces into Ukraine.

Russia’s TASS news agency stresses that the strikes comply with international law, following a request from the government of the state in question. “Baghdad has earlier sent the respective request to the international coalition”.

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Journalists in Washington, however, are reporting that the first strikes appear to have hit not Isis controlled areas, but Rebels in Homs:

On Monday, Obama and Putin exchanged thinly-veiled blows on the subject.

While both David Cameron and Obama have indicated that Bashar al-Assad must not remain in government in Syria in the long-term, Putin called the president “legitimate”. These air strikes will be seen as further support for his regime.

The strikes follow news that the Pentagon’s top Russia official resigned yesterday amidst debates over how the US should respond to Russia’s actions in Ukraine and the Syria.

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