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Russian missiles fired at Syria landed in Iran, US officials claim

9 October

Four cruise missiles launched from a Russian warship in the Caspian Sea fell short of their target, landing in Iran, according to unnamed US officials. 

Based on intelligence reports of damage assessments, the US believes that the four missiles fell in Iran on Wednesday, damaging some buildings and possibly hurting civilians, reports CNN.

However, US officials offered no details on where the missiles might have landed and reports from Iranian media have been contradictory.

The Irna news agency says that an "unknown flying object … crashed in the village of Ghozghapan in the Iranian province of West Azerbaijan", which it says lies directly beneath the flight path of the Russian missiles as they passed through Iran's airspace.

However, Iran's Fars news agency dismisses calling the claim, describing it as a "psychological operation by the US against Moscow".

Russia strenuously denies the US claim, insisting that it fired 26 missiles in Syria from its warships and that all hit their targets.

"Unlike CNN, we don't report quoting anonymous sources," said the Russian Defence Ministry. "We show launches of our missiles and the targets they hit in real-time mode." 

The ministry also pointed to a video of the missile launch released after the strike (see below).[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"content_original","fid":"85178","attributes":{"class":"media-image"}}]]

An unnamed US official told CNN that the Russian statements could not be trusted. "These are the people who told us there were no little green men in Crimea," he said, referring to Russia's denial that it had sent ground troops over the border into Ukraine earlier this year.

The 'Kaliber' weapons used by the Russians have not been used in active combat before, says the news site.

The claims were made as Nato renewed assurances to defend its allies in relation to Russia's "escalation" in Syria. The alliance has put thousands of troops on standby, ready to be sent to Turkey, which has condemned Moscow for violating its airspace.

More than 90% of Russian air strikes 'not targeting Islamic State'

8 October

More than 90 per cent of Russia's airstrikes in Syria have not been against Islamic State or al-Qaeda affiliated terrorists, according to the US State Department.

The comments come as Nato defence ministers meet in Brussels today to discuss Russia's growing military involvement in the Syrian conflict.

Russian warplanes began launching their first air strikes in the war-torn country just over a week ago, prompting international criticism.

Turkey has accused Moscow of violating its airspace, while other Nato members have warned Russian president Vladimir Putin against supporting Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's brutal regime.

Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance was concerned about Russia's "strong and increased military presence" in Syria and called on Putin to play a "constructive and co-operative role" in fighting IS and ending his support for Assad.

The US State Department says Russia's airstrikes have been "largely against opposition groups that want a better future for Syria and don't want to see the Assad regime stay in power".

As well as the air strikes, Russian warships are said to have fired 26 cruise missiles yesterday from the Caspian Sea into Syria. "The cruise missiles, the first to be used by Russia in a war, travelled 900 miles over Iranian and Iraqi airspace before hitting their targets in northern Syria," says The Times.

The newspaper says that Europe is preparing for three million more refugees fleeing the "devastating new air and ground offensive by Russia and the Assad regime".

A survey conducted among Syrian refugees in Germany found that most had fled their country to escape Assad's regime and not IS.

According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, the Assad regime was responsible for three quarters of the 10,345 civilian deaths in Syria in the first half of 2015, while IS was responsible for 1,131. 

Russian violations of Turkish airspace 'no accident', says Nato

6 October

Russia's violation of Turkish airspace has sparked an international diplomatic row, with Nato calling on Moscow to "avoid escalating tensions".

Nato said a Russian Air Force SU-30 fighter aircraft was intercepted at the Turkish-Syrian border on Saturday, despite receiving repeated warnings from Turkish authorities to change course. It was escorted back into Syrian airspace by two Turkish F-16S jets, with Moscow calling the incident a mistake, likely caused by bad weather conditions. Then on Sunday, according to Nato, another Russian warplane, an SU-24, was seen off by Turkish fighter jets.

The Turkish Air Force also claimed that a MiG-29 had interfered with eight Turkish F-16s on the Turkey-Syria border on Monday, although the nationality of the aircraft was not clear.

Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg condemned Russia's actions, which he said were "not contributing to the security and stability of the region". He called on Russia to "fully respect Nato airspace and to avoid escalating tensions".

In a press statement on Tuesday, Stoltenberg expressed Nato's doubts over the accidental nature of the violation. "I will not speculate on the motives… but this does not look like an accident and we have seen two of them," he said.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry said it was "precisely the kind of thing that we warned against". During a visit to Chile, he said: "We're greatly concerned about it because it is precisely the kind of thing that, had Turkey responded under its rights, could have resulted in a shoot-down."

Speaking in Brussels, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that "an attack on Turkey means an attack on Nato".

The same sentiment was echoed by Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who warned that Russia's actions further threaten an already volatile region. On the weekend, Davutoglu received assurances from Moscow that Turkey's borders would be respected in the future. Nonetheless, the Russian ambassador was summoned to Ankara for a second meeting on Monday and a formal protest has been sent to Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister.

Russian-Turkish relations have soured in recent months, says the New York Times, with Turkey opposing Russia's intervention in Syria and its support for Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. Turkey is also among Nato allies that criticised Russia for targeting and bombing Syrian opposition forces rather than Islamic State targets.

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