UK
03/10/2015 12:23 BST | Updated 03/10/2015 12:59 BST

Michael Fallon Claims Russia Is Propping Up Assad With Syrian Airstrikes

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has blasted Russian airstrikes in Syria, claiming that Moscow’s military intervention is propping up Bashar Assad rather than tackling the so-called Islamic State terror group (also known as Isis, Isil or Daesh.

He said the "vast majority" of strikes since Russian president Vladimir Putin began the action have not been aimed at IS jihadists but were instead "killing civilians" and the Free Syrian forces rebelling against Assad's regime, according to the Press Association.

But despite acknowledging that Russian involvement had "complicated" the situation, Fallon indicated he still believed that Britain should extend its own bombing campaign to target IS in Syria.

michael fallon

Michael Fallon blasted Russia's actions in Syria

He said initial Ministry of Defence intelligence suggested just one in 20 Russian air strikes so far were on targets to damage IS.

He told the Sun: "We're analysing where the strikes are going every morning. The vast majority are not against IS at all.

"Our evidence indicates they are dropping unguided munitions in civilian areas, killing civilians, and they are dropping them against the Free Syrian forces fighting Assad.

"He's shoring up Assad and perpetuating the suffering."

Mr Fallon denied that Russia's involvement had left Europe and the US looking weak.

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He said: "I don't accept he has outmanoeuvred us. He has complicated the situation in Syria. But we're not powerless."

A statement issued by the governments of the the UK, US, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey condemned the Russian involvement, stating it did not target IS.

They said: "We express our deep concern with regard to the Russian military build-up in Syria and especially ‎the attacks by the Russian Air Force on Hama, Homs and Idlib which led to civilian casualties and did not target Daesh. ‎

"These military actions constitute a further escalation and will only fuel more extremism and radicalisation.

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The aftermath of Russian bombings in Syria

We call on the Russian Federation to immediately cease its attacks on the Syrian opposition and civilians and to focus its efforts on fighting Isil."

Fallon indicated that the changed circumstances would not prevent the Government pressing ahead with making the case to extend the RAF's strikes against IS from Iraq into Syria.

It would be "morally wrong" not to target IS in Syria, he said, adding: "We can't leave it to French and Australian, American aircraft to keep our own British streets safe."