Vladimir Putin accuses West of 'double game' with Syria terror groups
Russian President Vladimir Putin today accused the West of playing a "double game" with terrorist groups in Syria, where a US-led coalition is conducting a bombing campaign.
"It's always difficult to play a double game: declaring a fight against terrorists while simultaneously trying to use some of them to arrange the pieces on the Middle East chess board in one's own interests," Putin said at a meeting of political scientists known as the Valdai Club.
"It is impossible to prevail over terrorism if some of the terrorists are being used as a battering ram to overthrow undesirable regimes," Putin said.
Russia has insisted the air strikes it has conducted since September 30 in the war-torn country are hitting IS and other "terrorist" groups.
But the US and its allies, who are conducting a separate bombing campaign, say Moscow's strikes are aimed at Western-backed moderate rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
"There is no need to play on words, to classify terrorists are moderate and non-moderate," Putin said.
"What is the difference?" Putin said, suggesting that "in the opinion of some experts... So-called moderate bandits behead people moderately or gently."
Assad made a surprise visit to Moscow on Tuesday for talks with Putin, the embattled Syrian leader's first foreign trip since 2011.
Putin pledged to continue to support Damascus militarily, while calling for a political solution involving all groups to try to end the war, the Kremlin said.
Russia's defence ministry today said it had struck 72 "terrorist" targets in Syria over the past 24 hours, claiming to have destroyed the combat capability of the main terrorist groups operating in the country.
"As a result of Russian air strikes, the main forces of terrorist groups, made up of the best trained terrorists, have lost combat capability.
Their command and resupply system has been disrupted," senior military official Andrei Kartopolov told Russian news agencies.
Kartapolov said the strikes -- which targeted the provinces of Hama, Idlib, Latakia, Damascus, Aleppo and Deir Ezzor -- had destroyed a bridge over the Euphrates River used for moving supplies to fighters from neighbouring Iraq.
Since the start of the campaign, Russian planes have carried out 934 sorties that have destroyed 819 "terrorist targets", including command centres, ammunition depots and training camps, Kartopolov said.