Putin gets unanimous green light to use airstrikes in Syria

WASHINGTON — A U.S. defense official tells The Associated Press that Russia has launched airstrikes in Syria.

The move follows a unanimous vote by Russian lawmakers to allow President Vladimir Putin to order airstrikes in Syria, where Russia has deployed fighter jets and other weapons in recent weeks.

Russian lawmakers voted unanimously Wednesday to let President Vladimir Putin send Russian troops to Syria. Screen shot from video.
Russian lawmakers voted unanimously Wednesday to let President Vladimir Putin send Russian troops to Syria. Screen shot from video.

The U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the airstrikes publicly, said they were launched Wednesday near Homs.

The Kremlin sought to play down the decision, saying it will only use its air force there, not ground troops. Putin and other officials have said Russia was only providing weapons and training to Syrian President Bashar Assad's army to help it combat ISIS. Screen shot from video.
The Kremlin sought to play down the decision, saying it will only use its air force there, not ground troops. Putin and other officials have said Russia was only providing weapons and training to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s army to help it combat ISIS. Screen shot from video.

Russia recently moved fighter aircraft to an air base south of the Syrian coastal city of Latakia. U.S. officials had said in recent days that the Russians were flying reconnaissance missions without dropping bombs to familiarize themselves within the area. That was taken as an indication that they were about to begin airstrikes.

By ROBERT BURNS, AP National Security Writer

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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