Russia said on Friday it had bombed the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa for the first time as President Vladimir Putin faced mounting criticism from western and Gulf leaders over his military campaign in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Moscow countered that it had hit “an Islamic State (ISIS) training camp” and a command post in air strikes on Thursday near the jihadist bastion as the US-led coalition urged Russia to stop attacking Syrian opposition forces, saying it risked escalating the four-year civil war.
“These military actions constitute a further escalation and will only fuel more extremism and radicalization,” seven countries including Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United States said in a statement. “We call on the Russian Federation to immediately cease its attacks on the Syrian opposition and civilians,” it added.
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said Thursday Moscow had targeted ISIS, the al-Qaida affiliate al-Nusra Front and “other terrorist groups”. However, Turkey and several of its western allies have claimed that they instead hit moderate groups fighting Assad’s regime.