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Syria a 'testing ground' for deadly new Russian weapons

Sergei Shoigu hailed the Russian military's performance in the war-torn country [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 24 February, 2017

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Russia tested 162 new types of weapons in the Syrian conflict, according to the defence minister who said that they proved their 'worth' and hailed Russian military's performance in Syria.

Russia has tested 162 types of new weapons in its combat in Syria, its defence minister said, hailing the military's performance in the war-torn country, in which more than 310,000 people have been killed.

The weapons have proven their worth in the conflict, Sergei Shoigu told the Russian parliament on Wednesday, adding that 'only' 10 weapons failed to meet expectations.

Among the new weapons tested in combat for the first time in Syria were long-range cruise missiles carried by navy ships and strategic bombers.

Shoigu said Russian pilots have flown 1,760 combat missions in Syria since the launch of the air campaign in September 2015, killing more than 3,100 alleged militants, including 26 "warlords".

The Russian defence minister said nothing about thousands of Syrian civilians reported killed in Russian airstrikes.

He added that nearly 90 percent of all Russian military pilots have gained combat experience in the skies over Syria, claiming a recent mission of the Russian aircraft carrier group near Syria's shores was a 'success' despite the loss of two carrier-borne fighters in accidents.

When Russia intervened in Syria, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government was teetering on the brink of collapse. The Russian air support allowed the regime forces to win some key ground.

"The breakup of the Syrian state has been prevented, a civil war has been practically stopped," Shoigu said.

The weapons have proven their worth in the conflict, Sergei Shoigu told the Russian parliament, adding that only 10 weapons failed to meet expectations

The minister appeared to refer to December's truce brokered by Russia and Turkey, even though Russian and regime forces continued to fight.

He boasted about a massive effort to maintain the Syrian campaign, saying that it has seen 2,000 metric tons of cargo supplied to Syria daily by sea and air.

There have been no official data on the number of Russian troops in Syria, but the Russian media estimated it at over 4,000 based on voter rolls from last September's Russian parliamentary elections.

Shoigu said that Russia has deployed two military police battalions in Syria, one to Aleppo and another to Wadi Barada near Damascus.

The minister said the military's special forces have performed well in the conflict, targeting the militant leaders and helping pinpoint targets.

"Special operations forces have demonstrated their high efficiency," he said. "They have played a key role in liquidating the terrorists, destroying critically important enemy facilities and directing airstrikes."

The Syrian conflict began when the Baath regime, in power since 1963 and led by Assad, responded with military force to peaceful protests demanding democratic reforms during the Arab Spring wave of uprisings, triggering an armed rebellion fuelled by mass defections from the Syrian army.

According to independent monitors, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed in the war, mostly by the regime and its powerful allies, and millions have been displaced both inside and outside of Syria.

The brutal tactics pursued mainly by the regime, which have included the use of chemical weapons, sieges, mass executions and torture against civilians have led to war crimes investigations.

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