Syrian Observatory for Human Rights,
On September 30, 2015, the Council of the Russian Federation authorized Russian President Vladimir Putin to engage in military action in Syria. Putin declared that Russian intervention would be limited to air strikes to defeat the Islamic State and extremists in the “legitimate war of the Syrian army”, at the request of the regimes’ president, Bashar al-Assad. Russian forces immediately launched air strikes on the Islamic State positions, according to the Russian Defense Ministry, after which a series of strikes, raids and military and political assistance to the Assad regime were launched, resulting in the Syrian regime regaining control of about 71.7% of the total territory of Syria after he has been controlling very small parts of Syrian territory. With the completion of 50 months of Russian intervention in Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights continues to document and monitor the repercussions of Russian interventions and the developments of the political and military scenes for four years and two months since the first raids of “Moscow” on Syrian territory.
According to the statistics of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, as of November 30, 2019, the area under the regime’s control amounted to 132,750.8 km2, which is equivalent to about 71.7% of the total Syrian territory, where the regime has regained it through Russian assistance, whether at the military level or Political agreements through the agreements concluded by Russia with Turkey through the “Astana” and “Sochi” meetings. Meanwhile, the SDF now controls about 29,220 km2 of Syrian territory at a rate of 15.7%, while ISIS controls 3283 km2 at a rate of 1.8%, while the Islamic and armed factions, HTS, the “Euphrates Shield”, the “olive branch” and the “Peace Spring” Operations, and the US-backed factions control about 19926.2 km2 of the Syrian territory, equivalent to 10.8% of the total land area of Syria.
Military strikes, patrols and military supervision, “Moscow” tests its weapons on Syria and the outcome: thousands of civilian casualties
Since Russia became involved in the Syrian conflict militarily, Russian planes -as documented and monitored by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights through multiple reliable sources- have been involved in the deaths of thousands of civilians as a result of air strikes carried out almost daily by Russian aircraft. Despite the relative calm witnessed in September and October in Syrian airspace as a result of the reduction of Russian air strikes and the less casualties at the hands of the Russians due to the Russian-Turkish agreements that halted military operations within the “Putin-Erdogan” zone; the escalation returned in November with more civilians are being killed by Russian forces under the pretext of “counter-terrorism”, not to mention millions of Syrians who have been displaced in various areas internally and externally as a result of Russian raids.
According to Syrian Observatory statistics, the past 50 months of Russian intervention in Syria have seen the death of 19,167 from September 30, 2015 to November 30, 2019: 8,360 civilians (2020 children, 1268 citizens and 5072 men and young men), in addition to the killing of 5,244 members of the Islamic State, and 5,563 fighters from the Islamic factions, HTS, the Islamic Turkistan Party and fighters of Arab and foreign nationalities. The Syrian war, acknowledged by Russian officials themselves, was the scene of the experiment of more than 600 weapons and the modification of some helicopter systems based on the experience of Russian forces in Syria.
The Russian killing machine that was launched in Syria did not stop at the end of air strikes and support the regime by traditional military methods, but resorted to the use of non-conventional internationally prohibited weapons, where the SOHR monitored the Russian aircrafts using “Thermite”, which consists of aluminum powder and Iron oxide, which causes burns because it continues to ignite for about 180 seconds. According to sources of the Syrian Observatory, “Russian bombs carry this material inside the bombs used by Russian aircraft in recent weeks, in which incendiary cluster bombs (RBK-500 ZAB 2.5 SM) weighing about 500 kg, are dropped on Syrian territories, carrying small-sized anti-personnel bombs and mechanisms (AO 2.5 RTM) up to 50-110 bombs stuffed with Thermite, which is fragmented when used in the bombing, so that the range of anti-personnel bomb and mechanisms reaches 20-30 meters”.
“Astana” and “Sochi”, Russia snatched Syrian territories from the opposition and armed groups back to the Regime through Political meetings
Since January 23 and 24, 2017, Russian engagement in the Syrian war has taken a new turn, with the launch of the first version of the Astana talks between the Syrian opposition and the regime’s government. Since then, the Syrian territory has witnessed tremendous shifts in the areas of control of the land, and these talks became the first starting point through which Russia, with the help of Turkey, succeeded in restoring control of most of the Syrian territory to the “Syrian regime”, so that Russia and Turkey had awarded the regime of Bashar Assad what he failed to achieve over the years preceding the talks.
In January 2017, according to the statistics of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the area under the control of the Syrian regime did not exceed 35944 square kilometers, which is equivalent to 19.4% of the total area of the Syrian territory, while the SDF controlled 34230 square kilometers with a total proportion of 18.5%, while the lion’s share was that of the Islamic State, which then controlled 79,293 square kilometers, or 42.8% of the total Syrian territory, while the Islamic factions and fighters, the “Euphrates Shield” and Western-backed factions controlled 35,713 square kilometers, or 19.3% of the total Syrian territory. However, the talks that was designed to settle the crisis and concentrate mainly on stabilizing the ceasefire, became an outlet for both Russia and Turkey to stabilize the regime’s control over Syrian territory through the agreements reached under the auspices of Russia and Turkey, until the regime forces became controlling 132,750.8 square kilometers (71.7% of Syria’s total land area) by November 30.
13 rounds of “Astana” talks held in less than 3 years, all of which led to the creation of “de-escalation” zones initially guaranteed by Russia and Turkey, through which Moscow succeeded in reducing Iran’s military role within the Syrian territory through reconciliation with Russian-Turkish agreements, as well as deliberately overlooking the Israeli strikes targeting military centers and positions of Hezbollah, Iran and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in different parts of Syria, in addition to the exclusion of Iran from military participation in the operations of the northern Hama and Idlib countryside. It soon became obvious that the “Russian and Turkish” guarantors were the main way for the Regime to take back what it had lost years before, starting from the Damascus Ghouta, passing through Aleppo, Hama, Homs and Idlib, which has witnessed an intensified escalation in the recent period despite the agreement to reduce the escalation there, where the regime’s planes and Russian warplanes intensify their targeting on the region, amid threats of storming, in addition to the north and northeast of Syria, which was subject to Russian-Turkish agreements that led to the entry of regime forces to many areas for the first time in many years since it withdrew from it.
Northern Syria, the withdrawal of “Washington” awarded Moscow and the Regime a gift “on a plate of gold”
Since the start of the Turkish military operation in northern Syria on October 9, the Syrian Observatory has monitored the progress of the Turkish forces and their affiliates with intensive air and ground cover in a total area of 4875 km2 (9.2% of the total area controlled by the SDF), more than a quarter of Lebanon. At the same time, under a Russian-brokered deal between the SDF and the regime, regime forces entered an area of 18821 km2 (35.6% of the total SDF control), which means that SDF lost control of 23,641 km2 of the total area it had been controlling, which is 52,916 km2 (28.6% of the total area of Syria), before the start of the military operation “Peace Spring”, meaning that SDF is now controlling only 15.7% of Syria.
The US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from northern Syria on October 6, marked the start of the Turkish military operation and a green light to rearrange the map of alliances and influence in the entire region, where the US withdrawal pushed SDF to ask for protection from Russia and the Regime and to deploy troops in the border areas. According to the Russian-Turkish agreement reached in Sochi between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the parameters of control are becoming clearer day after day, as the area extending from Qamishli to Ain Dewar is under American influence, while the area from Qamishli to Ras al-Ain (Sri Kanyee) and from Tal Abyad to Ain al-Arab (Kobani) is under Russian influence, while the area extending from Ras al-Ain Tal Abyad is subject to Turkish influence, while the axes in the area of “Abu Rasin” and the countryside of “Tal Tamr” that reach to Ras Al-Ain are witnessing renewed clashes between SDF and Turkish-backed factions, as the area between Ain Issa and Tal Abyad.
According to the Syrian Observatory’s statistics over the past two months, the Sochi agreements between Russia and Turkey have led to the deployment of regime forces into many areas for the first time in many years since they withdrew from it, where the regime’s forces deployed in the eastern countryside of the city of “Qamishli” for the first time in 7 years, along the area extending from Qamishli to Qahtaniya which is more than 20 kilometers. All this was done in accordance with a Russian-Turkish-US agreement that restored many areas of north and northeast Syria to the regime’s control in accordance with an agreement between the SDF, the Regime and Russia in order to confront the Turkish military operation. The Syrian Observatory also monitored the deployment of regime forces throughout the western countryside of Darbasiyah, northern Aburasin (Zarkan), Ain Issa, Ain al-Arab (Kobani) and Manbij countryside, not to mention that the Russian forces is now controlling 5 of the former US bases after the International Coalition withdrew from it in accordance with the decision of the US President.
According to reliable information obtained by the Syrian Observatory, which Russia initially denied before recognizing it, the Syrian regime agreed to lease the Qamishli airport to Russian forces for 49 years to be the main base of the Russian forces in the area, similar to what happened at the “Khameimim” Air-base. According to the Syrian Observatory, Russian forces began to transport a number of helicopters from Khameimim to the airport in Qamishli in northeastern Syria on the border with Turkey, as part of Russia’s measures to secure the work of military police patrolling northern Syria under the Russian-Turkish agreement. The SOHR also monitored the Russian forces deploying air defense Pantsir missile system at the airport to protect the helicopters, where a Mi-8 military transport helicopter landed at the airport, while two Mi-35 helicopters were working to secure the airport from the air.
50 months have passed since the beginning of the Russian military intervention in Syria, during which the map of alliances and power balances witnessed several changes that led to the regime’s control over two-thirds of the country after it lost control of most of its territory, however Russian intervention favored the regime. Through political agreements and military actions that cost the lives of thousands of civilians, not to mention the displacement of millions and the injury of tens of thousands of various injuries, often reaching permanent disabilities; Moscow has taken the pretext of the “war on terror” to commit massacres against civilians, and sponsored agreements that soon abandoned it, as Russian missiles was immersed with the Syrian blood, despite the Russian attempts to embrace its role of a political mediator capable of dealing with all parties to the conflict. With the recent shifts in the balance of power, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights renews its appeals to the international community to put pressure on Russia to stop its aggression against Syrian civilians, in addition to pressure for a political solution to end the Syrian crisis, which is entering its ninth year, without a looming solution to stop the killing machine which shed the blood of thousands of Syrians and displaced millions more internally and externally.
In light of what was monitored by the SOHR and in light of the official Russian announcement and public statements confirming that the Russian intervention in Syria came to combat terrorism, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights demands that the Russian side explain the reasons for its condoning of military intervention in the Syrian Badia region, which still under the control of the Islamic State and the cells of the group, as they controls about 4000 km2 (1.8%) of the total Syrian territory, an area extending from Mount Abu Rajmen in the north-east of Palmyra to the desert of Deir ez-Zor and its western countryside, in addition to the presence of the group in the desert of Sokhna and in the north of the administrative border of As-Suwayda. ISIS and its elements are working in this region without any action or response from Russia, which claims to fight terrorism, which means that the real purpose of the Russian intervention is not to fight terrorism, but to kill and displace civilians and destroy their homes and property, in order to help the Regime to emerge victorious over the ruins of Syria and civilians.
HD Infographic: Human casualties of the Russian Air-strikes over 50 months of the Russian involvement in Syria