Russia steps up Syria air strikes, fires cruise missiles after bomb confirmation
Russia's President Vladimir Putin - AFP/Alexei Nikolsky

MOSCOW: Vladimir Putin was told Russia had stepped up air strikes against Islamist militants in Syria with long-range bombers and cruise missiles after the Kremlin announced a manhunt for those responsible for blowing up a Russian airliner over Egypt.

Putin, visiting the defence ministry’s command centre in Moscow on Tuesday evening, was told by military chiefs that the air force had carried out around 2,300 sorties in Syria in the last 48 days.

Putin, in footage broadcast earlier on Tuesday, had vowed to hunt down those responsible for blowing up a Russian airliner over Egypt and intensify air strikes against Islamists in Syria, after the Kremlin concluded a bomb had destroyed the plane last month, killing 224 people.

Speaking four days after Islamist gunmen and bombers killed at least 129 people in Paris, Putin ordered the Russian navy to establish contact with a French aircraft carrier in the region and to treat them as allies.

He said Russia could develop a joint plan on Syria with the French navy.

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