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Here’s how Russian forces battled to victory in Syria

Russia’s intervention in 2015 was decisive in defeating the terrorists in Syria

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(Oriental Review) – On Monday, Vladimir Putin unexpectedly interrupted his journey to Egypt, stopping off at Russia’s Hmeymim airbase in Syria and announcing the windup of Russia’s most successful military campaign abroad. Thousands of combat sorties have been flown, tens of thousands of terrorists and their infrastructure have been destroyed, and hundreds of Syrian cities and towns have been liberated. We have previously published accounts of how Russian pilots, special ops, marines, doctors, and diplomats spent two years helping the lawful president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, hold his country together and rid it of terrorists.

Russia enters the conflict

By the fall of 2015, the war in Syria had already dragged on for four long years. The mass anti-government demonstrations that began in March 2011 had quickly escalated into skirmishes with the military. And terrorist factions immediately “hijacked” these popular protests. Soon, the leading role in the battle against the ruling regime was being played by extremists from the Islamic State, Jabhat Al Nusra, Al-Qaeda, and many factions within what has been called the “moderate opposition” – mainly in the Free Syrian Army that has been so championed by the West.

From the very beginning, Russia provided diplomatic support to Syria. Back in the spring of 2011, Vitaly Churkin, the late Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the UN, vetoed the draft Security Council resolutions being proposed by some Western and Arab countries that were anti-Syrian in nature.

In addition, Russia backed the government of Bashar al-Assad by supplying arms, military equipment, and ammunition, in addition to training officers and providing military advisers.

Syrian Army got from Russia
Syrian Army got from Russia

But as the terrorist organizations and forces of the “moderate opposition” continued to make territorial gains, it became clear that this support was not enough. The Syrian Arab Army was running out of steam. Huge losses, shortages of the most essential materials, plus low morale forced those soldiers loyal to Assad to cede more and more territory, retreating as far as the coastal province of Latakia and the city of Damascus. By September 2015, it looked like Syria’s leader had only a few weeks left in power.

Areas of control in Syria in September 2015
Areas of control in Syria in September 2015

So that month, at the request of President Bashar al-Assad, Russia’s Federation Council approved Vladimir Putin’s decision to move Russian troops into Syria. On Sept. 30, a Russian military operation began in that country.

The composition of the Russian air fleet

The composition of the air fleet often changed in accordance with the tasks assigned to it. Based on the data at hand, at various times it included:

  • Up to ten multi-role Su-35S fighter jets
  • Up to four Su-27SMs
  • From 12-16 two-seater Su-30SM fighter jets
  • Up to 12 Su-34 fighter-bombers
  • Up to 30 Su-24M front-line bombers
  • Up to 12 Su-25SM close-support aircraft
  • Up to 15 multipurpose Mi-8 helicopters in various modifications
  • Up to 15 Mi-24 and Mi-35 attack helicopters
  • Up to five Ka-52 attack helicopters

Strikes were even launched against the terrorists’ base camps from inside the Russian Federation.

  • Six supersonic Tu-160 missile carriers
  • Five Tu-95MS strategic bombers
  • From 12-14 Tu-22M3 long-range bombers-missile carriers

The A-50 early warning and control aircraft, the Tu-214R, and the Il-20M1 radio reconnaissance plane coordinated air operations, carried out reconnaissance missions, and pinpointed targets for the strike formations.

Russian forces in Syria

Air and naval activities

Russian aviation really ran the show in Syria. Militant training camps, command posts, weapons and ammunition depots, oil fields, and convoys of gasoline tankers found themselves decimated by massive attacks launched from the Hmeymim airbase, the staging bases for air strikes, and the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier. Bombers, close-support aircraft, and fighter planes, taking advantage of their total mastery of the air, managed to destroy more than 100,000 different terrorist facilities. The first wave of the massive air strikes against IS came at the end of 2015. That was when Russian planes pulverized a buried IS command post, underground bunkers, and warehouses in the province of Hama.

During their high-profile mission to “seek and destroy” gasoline tankers, Su-34fighter-bombers managed to sniff out approximately 500 tanker trucks carrying petroleum products, plus dozens of oil refineries, grinding them into the sand. That was a punch to the gut of the IS war chest, as its main source of income was the illegal sale of black gold.

In late 2015, the Syrian desert was rattled by the most powerful blow yet – strategic Tu-160 bombers, Tu-95MSs, and long-range Tu-22M3s dropped more than three dozen missiles and a multitude of bombs, destroying the command posts of IS detachments in the Idlib and Aleppo provinces, as well as training camps for suicide bombers. In the summer of 2016, long-range Tu-22M3 bombers took off from Hamadan Airbase in Iran and blew out their bomb bays over militant targets in Aleppo, Deir ez-Zor, and Idlib. Regular air sorties supported the Syrian operation from beginning to end.

In addition to aircraft, Russia also put its combat ships, submarines, and coastal missile systems to effective use in Syria. Some types of weapons got their first test under battle conditions. In November 2016, to be exact, the Russian military employed its Bastion coastal-defense missile systems to spectacularly obliterate a large warehouse belonging to the militants with the help of its Onyx anti-ship missiles.

In October 2015, the Russian Navy was responsible for a widely reported cruise-missile attack from the Caspian Sea that annihilated militant positions with an unprecedented show of strength. The Dagestan, a missile-armed frigate, and the Grad Sviyazhsk and Veliky Ustyug small missile patrol ships released an enormous swarm of Kalibr cruise missiles that flew over several countries to blow up more than a dozen targets in militant-controlled territory. In June 2017, the Russian Navy’s Admiral Essen and Admiral Grigorovich frigates, as well as its Krasnodarsubmarine, used Kalibr cruise missiles to inflict a powerful blow from the Mediterranean Sea against terrorist command posts and ammunition depots in Hama province.

The capture of Aleppo marked the final turning point for the government forces in Syria, after which it was possible to withdraw about half of the air formations from the Hmeymim airbase in May 2017 and send them home.

The makings of victory

Russian aircraft were able to administer continuous, nonstop strikes against targets belonging to terrorist groups in Syria. From the onset of the military operation until September 2017, over 30,000 sorties were flown and about 92,000 attacks on terrorists were carried out.

Russian planes bashed terrorists with the active support of the most elite force in the Russian military, the soldiers from the Special Operations Forces, who conducted reconnaissance missions, corrected the moves of aircraft and artillery, trained Syrian soldiers and officers, conducted raids deep into enemy territory, set up countless ambushes along the routes of terrorist convoys, and neutralized the leaders of outlaw gangs. The ships and airplanes of the Syrian Express had an important role to play, supplying weapons, armored vehicles, and ammunition to the embattled country. Russian doctors were responsible for true acts of heroism, treating the civilians and servicemen who had suffered injuries in the war.

And a huge role in the resolution of the Syrian crisis was played by the Russian diplomats who set in motion the negotiations in Astana. Those made it possible to establish the de-escalation zones in Syria that are still operating effectively today.

Syrian peace talks in Astana
Syrian peace talks in Astana

But of course it was the Syrian people who won the real victory – the Russian military just helped to remind them that the enemy can be defeated even if it enjoys the unconditional support of the West.

What comes next

It was revealed in late November that the Russian forces currently stationed at the Hmeymim airbase near Latakia and the naval base in Tartus would remain there. Their presence will clear the path for Russia to fend off any threat in the Eastern Mediterranean and to thus ensure the strategic parity that guarantees long-term peace in this volatile region. While the Syrian peace process is under its way the situation in the country and around is very fragile. The key game players and war profiteers are still on the ground and they are not to leave the Syrian territory. So the primary goal is to prevent anybody from the “defeated party” to undermine the talks and to secure desperately needed reconstruction programs, renovation and stabilization of normal social, economic and political life in Syria.

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Kiev ‘Patriarch’ prepares to seize Moscow properties in Ukraine

Although Constantinople besought the Kiev church to stop property seizures, they were ignored and used, or perhaps, complicit.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The attack on the Eastern Orthodox Church, brought about by the US State Department and its proxies in Constantinople and Ukraine, is continuing. On October 20, 2018, the illegitimate “Kyiv (Kiev) Patriarchate”, led by Filaret Denisenko who is calling himself “Patriarch Filaret”, had a synodal meeting in which it changed the commemoration title of the leader of the church to include the Kyiv Caves and Pochaev Lavras.

This is a problem because Metropolitan Onuphry of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church which is canonically accepted and acts as a very autonomous church under the Moscow Patriarchate has these places under his pastoral care.

This move takes place only one week after Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople unilaterally (and illegally) lifted the excommunications, depositions (removal from priestly ranks as punishment) and anathemas against Filaret and Makary that were imposed on them by the hierarchy of the Moscow Patriarchate.

These two censures are very serious matters in the Orthodox Church. Excommunication means that the person or church so considered cannot receive Holy Communion or any of the other Mysteries (called Sacraments in the West) in a neighboring local Orthodox Church. Anathema is even more serious, for this happens when a cleric disregards his excommunication and deposition (removal from the priesthood), and acts as a priest or a bishop anyway.

Filaret Denisenko received all these censures in 1992, and Patriarch Bartholomew accepted this decision at the time, as stated in a letter he sent to Moscow shortly after the censures. However, three years later, Patriarch Bartholomew received a group of Ukrainian autocephalist bishops called the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA, who had been in communion with Filaret’s group. While this move may have been motivated by the factor of Bartholomew’s almost total isolation within Istanbul, Turkey, it is nonetheless non-canonical.

This year’s moves have far exceeded previous ones, though, and now the possibility for a real clash that could cost lives is raised. With Filaret’s “church” – really an agglomeration of Ukrainian ultranationalists and Neo-Nazis in the mix, plus millions of no doubt innocent Ukrainian faithful who are deluded about the problems of their church, challenging an existing arrangement regarding Ukraine and Russia’s two most holy sites, the results are not likely to be good at all.

Here is the report about today’s developments, reprinted in part from OrthoChristian.com:

Meeting today in Kiev, the Synod of the schismatic “Kiev Patriarchate” (KP) has officially changed the title of its primate, “Patriarch” Philaret, to include the Kiev Caves and Pochaev Lavras under his jurisdiction.

The primate’s new official title, as given on the site of the KP, is “His Holiness and Beatitude (name), Archbishop and Metropolitan of Kiev—Mother of the cities of Rus’, and Galicia, Patriarch of All Rus’-Ukraine, Svyaschenno-Archimandrite of the Holy Dormition Kiev Caves and Pochaev Lavras.”

…Thus, the KP Synod is declaring that “Patriarch” Philaret has jurisdiction over the Kiev Caves and Pochaev Lavras, although they are canonically under the omophorion of His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine, the primate of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Philaret and his followers and nationalistic radicals have continually proclaimed that they will take the Lavras for themselves.

This claim to the ancient and venerable monasteries comes after the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate announced that it had removed the anathema placed upon Philaret by the Russian Orthodox Church and had restored him to his hierarchical office. Philaret was a metropolitan of the canonical Church, becoming patriarch in his schismatic organization.

Representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate have clarified that they consider Philaret to be the “former Metropolitan of Kiev,” but he and his organization continue to consider him an active patriarch, with jurisdiction in Ukraine.

Constantinople’s statement also appealed to all in Ukraine to “avoid appropriation of churches, monasteries, and other properties,” which the Synod of the KP ignored in today’s decision.

The KP primate’s abbreviated title will be, “His Holiness (name), Patriarch of Kiev and All Rus’-Ukraine,” and the acceptable form for relations with other Local Churches is “His Beatitude Archbishop (name), Metropolitan of Kiev and All Rus’-Ukraine.”

The Russian Orthodox Church broke eucharistic communion and all relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate over this matter earlier this week. Of the fourteen local Orthodox Churches recognized the world over, twelve have expressed the viewpoint that Constantinople’s move was in violation of the canons of the Holy Orthodox Church. Only one local Church supported Constantinople wholeheartedly, and all jurisdictions except Constantinople have appealed for an interOrthodox Synod to address and solve the Ukrainian matter in a legitimate manner.

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Massacre in Crimea kills dozens, many in critical condition

According to preliminary information, the incident was caused by a gas explosion at a college facility in Kerch, Crimea.

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“We are clarifying the information at the moment. Preliminary figures are 50 injured and 10 dead. Eight ambulance crews are working at the site and air medical services are involved,” the press-service for the Crimean Ministry of Health stated.

Medics announced that at least 50 people were injured in the explosion in Kerch and 25 have already been taken to local hospital with moderate wounds, according to Sputnik.

Local news outlets reported that earlier in the day, students at the college heard a blast and windows of the building were shattered.

Putin Orders that Assistance Be Provided to Victims of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The president has instructed the Ministry of Health and the rescue services to take emergency measures to assist victims of this explosion, if necessary, to ensure the urgent transportation of seriously wounded patients to leading medical institutions of Russia, whether in Moscow or other cities,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitriy Peskov said.

The president also expressed his condolences to all those affected by the tragic incident.

Manhunt Underway in Kerch as FSB Specialists Investigate Site of Explosion – National Anti-Terrorist Committee

The site of the blast that rocked a city college in Kerch is being examined by FSB bomb disposal experts and law enforcement agencies are searching for clues that might lead to the arrest of the perpetrators, the National Anti Terrorism Committee said in a statement.

“Acting on orders from the head of the NAC’s local headquarters, FSB, Interior Ministry, Russian Guards and Emergency Ministry units have arrived at the site. The territory around the college has been cordoned off and the people inside the building evacuated… Mine-disposal experts are working at the site and law enforcement specialists are investigating,” the statement said.

Terrorist Act Considered as Possible Cause of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The tragic news that comes from Kerch. Explosion. The president was informed … The data on those killed and the number of injured is constantly updated,” Peskov told reporters.

“[The version of a terrorist attack] is being considered,” he said.

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Russian Orthodox Church officially breaks ties with Constantinople

Biggest separation in almost 1,000 years as world’s largest Orthodox Church cuts communion with Constantinople over legitimizing schismatics.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The schism between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Ecumenical Patriarchate became official today, October 15, 2018, as the Russian Holy Synod reviewed the recent granting of communion to two schismatic groups in Ukraine, pursuant to Constantinople’s intent to grant autocephaly (full self-rule, or independence) to the agglomeration of these groups.

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RT reported that the Synod ruled that any further clerical relations with Constantinople are impossible, given the current conditions. Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev told journalists today about the breach in relations:

“A decision about the full break of relations with the Constantinople Patriarchate has been taken at a Synod meeting” that is currently been held in the Belarusian capital of Minsk, Hilarion said, as cited by TASS.

The move comes days after the Synod of the Constantinople Patriarchate decided to eventually grant the so-called autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, thus making the clerical organization, which earlier enjoyed a broad autonomy within the Moscow Patriarchate, fully independent.

The Moscow Patriarchate also said that it would not abide by any decisions taken by Constantinople and related to the status of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. “All these decisions are unlawful and canonically void,” Hilarion said, adding that “the Russian Orthodox Church does not recognize these decisions and will not follow them.”

At the same time, the Russian Church expressed its hope that “a common sense will prevail” and Constantinople will change its decision. However, it still accused the Ecumenical Patriarch of initiating the “schism.”

The marks the most significant split in the Orthodox Church since the Great Schism of 1054, in which Rome excommunicated Constantinople, a breach between the Roman Catholics and Orthodox which has persisted ever since then, becoming hardened and embittered after the Roman Catholic armies sacked Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade in 1204.

Many other local Orthodox Churches expressed support for the Moscow Patriarchate’s position prior to today’s announcement, but the break in relations between these two churches does not have any known affect on local churches who hold communion with both Moscow and the Ecumenical Patriarchate at this time.

The website Orthochristian.com ran the entire statement of the Holy Synod regarding this situation. We offer a brief summary of statements here, taken from that source and patriarcha.ru, adding emphasis.

With deepest pain, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church received the message of the Patriarchate of Constantinople published on October 11, 2018 about the decisions adopted by the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople: on the confirmation of the intention to “grant autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church”; on the opening of the “stavropegion” of the Patriarch of Constantinople in Kiev; on the “restoration in the hierarchal or priestly rank” of the leaders of the Ukrainian schism and their followers and the “return of their faithful to Church communion”; and on the “cancellation of the action” of the conciliar charter of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in 1686 concerning the transfer of the Kiev Metropolia to the Moscow Patriarchate

The Synod of the Church of Constantinople made these decisions unilaterally, ignoring the calls of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the entirety of the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as the fraternal Local Orthodox Churches, and their primates and bishops for pan-Orthodox discussion of the issue.

Entering into communion with those who have departed into schism, let alone those who have been excommunicated from the Church, is tantamount to departing into schism and is severely condemned by the canons of the holy Church: “If any one of the bishops, presbyters, or deacons, or any of the clergy shall be found communicating with excommunicated persons, let him also be excommunicated, as one who brings confusion on the order of the Church” (Canon 2 of the Council of Antioch; Canon 10, 11 of the Holy Apostles).

The decision of the Patriarchate of Constantinople on the “restoration” of the canonical status and the reception into communion of the former Metropolitan Philaret Denisenko, excommunicated from the Church, ignores a number of successive decisions of the Bishops’ Councils of the Russian Orthodox Church, the legitimacy of which are beyond doubt.

By the decision of the Bishops’ Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Kharkov of May 27, 1992, Metropolitan Philaret (Denisenko) was removed from the Kiev Cathedra and was banned from the clergy for not fulfilling the oath made by him before the cross and the Gospel at the previous Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church.

By its ruling of June 11,1992, the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, confirmed the decision of the Kharkov Council and expelled Philaret Denisenko from his rank, depriving him of every degree of the priesthood on the following charges: “Cruel and arrogant attitude to the subordinate clergy, dictatorialness, and intimidation (Tit. 1:7-8; Canon 27 of the Holy Apostles); introducing temptation among the faithful by his behavior and personal life (Matthew 18:7; Canon 3 of the First Ecumenical Council, Canon 5 of the Sixth Ecumenical Council); oath-breaking (Canon 25 of the Holy Apostles); public slander and blasphemy against the Bishops’ Council (Canon 6 of the Second Ecumenical Council); the celebration of clerical functions, including ordinations, in a state of suspension (Canon 28 of the Holy Apostles); the perpetration of a schism in the Church (Canon 15 of the First-Second Council).” All ordinations performed by Philaret in a suspended state since May 27, 1992, and the punishments imposed by him, were declared invalid.

Despite repeated calls for repentance, after the deprivation of his hierarchal rank Philaret Denisenko continued his schismatic activity, including within the bounds of other Local Churches. By the ruling of the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church of 1997, he was given over to anathema.

The aforesaid decisions were recognized by all the Local Orthodox Churches, including the Church of Constantinople.

… Now, after more than two decades, the Patriarchate of Constantinople has changed its position for political reasons.

… St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain, in his Pedalion, which is an authoritative source of ecclesiastical-canonical law of the Church of Constantinople, interprets Canon 9 of the Fourth Ecumenical Council, rejecting the false opinion on the right of Constantinople to consider appeals from other Churches: “The Primate of Constantinople does not have the right to act in the dioceses and provinces of other Patriarchs, and this rule did not give him the right to take appeals on any matter in the Ecumenical Church… “ Listing a whole range of arguments in favor of this interpretation, referring to the practice of the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils, St. Nikodemos concludes: “At present … the Primate of Constantinople is the first, the only, and the last judge over the metropolitans subordinate to him—but not over those who are subject to the rest of the Patriarchs. For, as we said, the last and universal judge of all the Patriarchs is the Ecumenical Council and no one else.” It follows from the above that the Synod of the Church of Constantinople does not have canonical rights to withdraw judicial decisions rendered by the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church.

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