MOSCOW — Russia launched airstrikes Wednesday in Syria, sharply escalating Moscow’s role in the conflict but also raising questions about whether its intent is fighting Islamic State militants or protecting longtime ally, President Bashar Assad.
President Vladimir Putin called it a pre-emptive strike against the militants, and the Russian Defense Ministry said its warplanes targeted and destroyed eight positions belonging to extremists from the IS group, also known as ISIL or ISIS. It did not give specific locations.
But French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told lawmakers in Paris: “Curiously, they didn’t hit Islamic State. I will let you draw a certain number of conclusions yourselves.”
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