Two Russian warships fired several cruise missiles at Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) targets in Syria from the eastern Mediterranean Sea, the Kremlin said on Wednesday, the first such strikes announced in months.
The frigate Admiral Essen and submarine Krasnodar carried out four strikes against ISIL targets near the city of Palmyra, the Russian military said in a statement.
The missiles were intended to eliminate a stockpile of artillery that had been moved from Raqqa, ISIL’s de facto capital in Syria, the statement said.
“All the targets were hit,” the statement continued, without specifying when the strikes occurred.
Russian President Vladimir Putin was briefed on the successful strikes by Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, the Kremlin said.
Al Jazeera’s Rory Challands, reporting from Russia’s capital, Moscow, said the strikes, which came a day after the US conducted what it said was a successful shooting down of a mock intercontinental ballistic missile, could by seen as a show of force by the Russian army.
“Russia generally drops ‘dumb bombs’ in Syria, because it’s cheaper, but every time it wants to send out a demonstration of military capabilities it ups the sophistication of its strikes,” he said.
Moscow said that the militaries of the US, Turkey and Israel “were informed in a timely manner of the missile launches through existing communication channels”.
Challands said that none of these countries has particularly close alliances with Russia – but they do have agreements on things like information sharing.
“What Russia has done here is that these information lines continue to operate, but at the same time that Russia is able and willing to act independently,” he said.
Russia has been conducting a bombing campaign since 2015 in support of President Bashar al-Assad and has a naval contingent deployed to the eastern Mediterranean to bolster its firepower.
Moscow has, however, not announced any strikes from the sea in recent months as it focuses on pushing a fragile truce between the government and rebels.
The ceasefire does not include UN-designated terrorist groups, including ISIL.