The Russian Defence Ministry has released a statement commenting on the strategic rationale for recent successful Kalibr cruise missile strikes on ISIS fighters and vehicles outside of Palmyra.
The statement explained that Raqqa’s effective encirclement by the Kurdish dominated SDF forces in addition to US and western European forces had been partly breached when the SDF allowed for an opening around Raqqa which has allowed for an escape route that ISIS attempted to exploit.
With the Syrian Arab Army advancing on both Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor Russia found it imperative to make sure that ISIS fighters fleeing their self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa could not head south and west to Homs and Hama via Palmyra.
According to the Russian Defence Ministry,
“The first convoy of terrorists from Raqqa heading to Palmyra was destroyed by the Russian Aerospace Forces on May 25. IS militants made another attempt to break through to the Palmyra area on the night of May 29 to 30. Three motorcades left Raqqa under the cover of darkness and took several routes southward”.
The statement continued,
“The Russian Aerospace Forces hit the detected targets. The IS lost more than 80 terrorists, 36 cars, eight fuel trucks and 17 pickup trucks equipped with mortars and large-caliber machine guns”.
It is not fully clear why Kurdish forces pulled back from their offensive against Raqqa, but Russia working in close coordination with the Syrian Arab Army was intent on stopping ISIS from exploiting this cessation in the fighting.
The Russian strikes against ISIS targets near Palmyra launched from Russian ships and submarines have been largely deemed to be a success.