Russia admits: Syria is test war for weaponry
Russia has effectively used the Syrian war to perfect weaponry, Moscow's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Sept. 22. Russia intervened in support of the Bashar Assad regime in 2015 and has since been held responsible for some of the most devastating aerial bombings experienced by civilians since the onset of the conflict more than eight years ago. Shoigu has previously said the intervention has given Moscow a testing ground for new weaponry, including long-range missiles fired from ships, submarines and warplanes. The defense minister now told Moskovsky Komsomolets around 300 weapons had been "fine-tuned" through the Syria intervention. Among them was the Kalibr cruise missile, generally launched from Russia's war fleet off the Syrian coast. Previous to use in Syria, Shoigu said, technical difficulties meant the Kalibr missile often missed targets, but that is no longer the case.
While Moscow and Damascus claim their air-strikes are directed against "terrorist" targets, civilians have borne the brunt of the bombardment. The most recent joint offensive has seen pro-regime forces attempt to retake rebel-held Idlib province in Syria's northwest. Hundreds have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced amid heavy bombardment over the past weeks. The United Nations announced earlier this month that it has formed a team to investigate a series of hospital bombings in Syria by Russia. Dozens of clinics and hospitals have been damaged or destroyed in suspected Russian bombing this year, despite their locations being shared with the UN and then passed on to Moscow to avoid being hit. Both Moscow and Damascus have been accused of intentionally striking civilian targets including hospitals and schools over the course of the war. (The New Arab, Sept. 24)