rusija, vojska.jpg
Photograph: Photo by Pavel Kazachkov, used under CC BY-ND

Russia's claim to have mainly targeted Islamist militants during a six-month military intervention in the Syrian civil war was false, a private think tank on international affairs said in a report Tuesday.

The Washington-based Atlantic Council's 32-page report, Distract, Deceive, Destroy: Putin at War in Syria, compiled using open sources, further alleged that Russian forces sometimes struck civilian targets and used cluster munitions.

President Vladimir Putin said in September as the Russian military was preparing the operation that his goals were to fight Islamic State forces and remove terrorist impediments to peace talks.

"Neither claim squares with the facts," the report said. "Initial Russian Defense Ministry combat reports claimed that [the Islamic State group] was the only target. Yet analysis of open source and social media intelligence (OSSMINT) quickly revealed that the ministry's claims were deceptive."

Russian strikes were "not primarily targeting" Islamic State forces, which suffered only "peripheral damage" during six months of Russia airstrikes, which ended on March 14, the report said.

"In fact, the main beneficiary of the Russian airstrikes was Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose forces were able to retake key areas in and around Latakia and Aleppo. The main losers were the more moderate rebels against Assad, including those backed by the West," the report found.

"The hallmark of the Russian campaign was disinformation. It accompanied the launch of the campaign; it covered the targets chosen and the weapons used to strike them; it masked the real purpose of the campaign, and the strategic effect that it achieved."

In a forward to the report, Atlantic Council executive vice president Damon Wilson said that the Russian military campaign actually prolonged the Syrian war, which arose from peaceful reform protests in 2011 against al-Assad, whose government is allied with Moscow.

"The results have been grievous. Russia carried out its airstrikes with scant regard for the rules of war: Open-source footage shows the repeated use of banned cluster munitions, and strikes on targets including mosques, hospitals, and water treatment plants," he said.

"Imagine the outcry if the United States or its allies conducted military operations in this manner."

Wilson said that Putin "cynically claimed" to have been fighting Islamic State extremists: "Nothing could be further from the truth. ... Russia almost exclusively targeted non-[Islamic State] targets. These are the truths that Russia will not admit, and the truths that must be understood when negotiating with Russia as a potential partner."

Latest news

Top Trump aide Bannon points to promises kept, media fight

Top White House strategist Steve Bannon said Thursday US President Donald Trump is keeping the promises he made during his campaign on issues from immigration to job creation.

Le Pen promises independent foreign policy, autonomous defence

Marine Le Pen promised Thursday that if elected president of France she would ensure it had a truly independent foreign policy as well as an autonomous capacity for self-defence.

Slovenia for ending lawsuits against Ljubljanska Banka

Croatia is infringing the memorandum of understanding signed with Slovenia in 2013 which they interpret differently, the Slovenian Embassy said on Thursday after a hearing at a Zagreb court in a suit which Croatia's PBZ bank filed against Slovenia's Ljubljanska Banka (LB) and Nova Ljubljanska Bank (NLB) over transferred foreign currency savings.

Marin Pucar appointed as new CEO in Podravka food concern

Marin Pucar is the new Management Board chairman of the Podravka food concern and will take the helm of the company after Zvonimir Mrsic's term expires at midnight on Thursday.

Croatian MEP says Moscow wants to influence in western Balkans

Croatian MEP Ivan Jakovcic said in an interview with the Montenegrin Pobjeda daily on Thursday that Moscow is trying to exploit the political forces in Montenegro and that Russia's meddling in Montenegro's internal affairs was "unacceptable behaviour."

New York Times launches brand campaign for "The Truth" with Oscars ad

The New York Times is using Sunday's Academy Awards show to launch an advertising drive with an ad spot that capitalizes on President Donald Trump's confrontational relationship with the paper and other mainstream media.

Gambia charges former spy chief with murder of opposition leader

The former head of the Gambian national intelligence agency has been charged with the murder of an opposition youth leader who died in detention last year.

Dutch populist Wilders won't publicly campaign after security fiasco

The Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV) won't make public appearances in support of its election campaign after a security official assigned to protect party founder Geert Wilders was detained by police.

Peace Implementation Council Steering Board calls for defusing tensions in Bosnia

The Steering Board of the Peace Implementation Council in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) met on Thursday, expressing the international community's concern about the situation in the country and calling on local politicians to act rationally to prevent an escalation of the crisis after a motion was submitted to review an International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling in BiH's case against Serbia for genocide.

Trump blasts Mexico as top diplomat holds talks in Mexico City

US President Donald Trump expressed ambivalence about the US relationship with Mexico as he blasted the country Thursday for what he claims is an unfair trade relationship.

Croat accused of rioting at UEFA 2016 game goes on trial

The trial of Ivan Vucenovic, 21, accused of causing rioting during a European soccer championship match between Croatia and the Czech Republic in Saint Etienne, France last June, began at the Sibenik Municipal Court on Thursday.

Schools blocked, 26 arrests in Paris protests against police abuses

Hundreds of young people took to the streets of Paris on Thursday in protests against alleged police brutality, with local media reporting that 16 secondary schools were forced to shut.