The Admiral Kuznetsov-led aircraft carrier group has “deliberately” refrained from participating in an operation to free eastern Aleppo, the Chinese newspaper People’s Daily asserted, saying that Russia does not want its strikes to inflict civilian casualties.
“Russia is not interested in carrying out a large-scale campaign in Aleppo, since massive airstrikes could lead to massive civilian casualties. For its part, extremist groups and anti-Russian forces could use them to their own benefit, which will have opposite political and social implications,” the media outlet explained.
The largely unexpected outcome of the recent presidential election in the United States has also been named as a factor.
“More importantly, relations between Russia and the United States have once again changed following Trump’s victory. At this stage Russia all the more does not want any trouble with regard to civilian casualties on the Syrian battlefield and other issues that could complicate bilateral relations,” the newspaper noted.
People’s Daily further pointed out that the war in Syria has not reached a crucial point yet. The publication suggested that Russia hopes to weaken terrorist groups fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad by launching strikes against targets spread across multiple regions, waiting for the right time to join the campaign to liberate Aleppo.
Russia sent the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier, the Pyotr Veliky battle cruiser, the Severomorsk and Admiral Kulakov anti-submarine destroyers and support vessels to the eastern Mediterranean to conduct military exercises and increase its counterterrorism capabilities in Syria. The group reached its destination on November 8.
Admiral Kuznetsov entered battle for the first time in the ship’s history seven days later, on November 15. The Sukhoi Su-33 carrier-based multirole fighters carried out airstrikes against Daesh and al-Nusra Front targets in the Syrian provinces of Idlib and Homs following comprehensive reconnaissance, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said.
As part of this operation, the Russian military eliminated Abul Baha al-Asfari, an al-Nusra Front field commander who was in charge of several offensive operations in the province of Aleppo. <br>
The Sukhoi Su-33, based on Admiral Kuznetsov, took part in another massive airstrike against militant targets in Syria on November 17, focusing on command centers, ammunition depots, military hardware and facilities used to produce weapons. The Russian Defense Ministry emphasized that all targets were verified through several intelligence channels, while unmanned aerial vehicles were monitoring the operation.
“High precision airstrikes helps to minimize civilian casualties during large-scale operations. At the same time Russia needs to test its weapons and military equipment,” People’s Daily suggested. The country “has introduced multiple types of military hardware [during its counterterrorism operation in Syria] and has carried out high precision attacks to test efficiency and performance characteristics of its weapons.”