The Russian military intervention in the Syrian Civil War began in September 2015 after an official request by the Syrian government for military help against rebel and jihadist groups. The intervention initially consisted of air strikes fired by Russian aircraft stationed in the Khmeimim base at targets primarily in north-western Syria, against militant groups opposed to the Syrian government, including Syrian National Coalition, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), al-Nusra Front (al-Qaeda in the Levant) and the Army of Conquest. Besides, Russian military advisors and special operations forces were stationed in Syria. Prior to the intervention, Russian involvement in the Syrian Civil War had mainly consisted of supplying the Syrian Army.
Shortly after the operation began, Russian officials were cited as saying that, apart from fighting terrorist organisations such as ISIL, Russia′s goals included helping the Syrian government retake territory from various anti-government groups that are labelled by the U.S. and its coalition as ″moderate opposition″, a broader geopolitical objective being to roll back U.S. influence. In his televised interview broadcast on 11 October 2015, Russian president Vladimir Putin said the military operation had been thoroughly prepared in advance; he defined Russia′s goal in Syria as “stabilising the legitimate power in Syria and creating the conditions for political compromise” According to the U.S. State Department, the Russian government has also been concerned that “if the government fell, that there would be chaos and that would allow terrorist groups to consolidate”, a claim which the Russian government has been using to justify their intervention. The intervention has produced significant gains for the Syrian government, including the recapture of Palmyra from ISIL in March 2016 and according to the U.S. State Department, one year after the start of their intervention the Russians “have succeeded in bolstering the [Syrian] regime.”
The pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has stated that between the initiation of the intervention in September 2015 and end of February 2016, Russian air strikes have killed at least 1,700 civilians, including more than 200 children. The Syrian Network for Human Rights puts the number even higher, and in its report stated that Russian attacks have killed more civilians than either ISIS or Assad’s army. Used weapons included unguided bombs, cluster bombs, incendiaries similar to white phosphorus and thermobaric weapons. By end of September 2016, the pro-rebel Syrian Observatory for Human Rights stated that Russian airstrikes have killed around 3800 civilians, about a quarter of them children, along with 2,746 ISIS fighters, and 2,814 rebels.