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View From Russia: Top Events of 2015

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Airstrikes by the Russian Aerospace Forces against Daesh (Islamic State) in Syria have been named the most important event of 2015 by Russian residents, according to a survey conducted by Obschestvennoe Mnenie agency.

 Among other significant events, the respondents named the growth of terrorism in the world, the crash of a Russian A321 passenger plane in Sinai, the downing of a Russian Su-24 bomber by Turkey and the following tensions between Moscow and Ankara, and finally the 70th anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War.
Russia’s Military Operation in Syria

On September 30, the Russian parliament approved the use of the country’s armed forces abroad, at the request of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Later on that day, warplanes of the Russian Aerospace Forces carried out the first airstrikes against Daesh militants in Syria.

The sole purpose of the operation was to provide support for the Syrian ground forces. The Russian officials have repeatedly said that a Russian ground operation is ruled out.

Russia deployed its task force unit to the Hmeymim airbase, outside the Syrian coastal town of Latakia. The unit comprised Su-24M bombers, Su-30SM jet fighters, Su-25SM ground attack aircraft as well as Mi-8 and Mi-24 attack helicopters.

All the aircraft involved in the operation are equipped with advanced targeting systems which are meant to unleash hell on Daesh militants with unprecedented accuracy, day and night. On November 17, 25 bombers of the Russian long-range aviation and 12 Su-34 and Su-24SM’s were included in the operation.

The operation marked the first combat use of several Russian weapons, including the Tu-160 bomber, the Kh-101 missile and the Kalibr ship-based cruise missile.

Russian jets at the Hmeymim airbase in Syria

The Russian forces in Syria have also been backed from the sea, by a naval tactical unit led by the Moskva missile-carrying cruiser and the Caspian Flotilla. On October 7 and then on November 20, warships of the flotilla fired Kalibr missiles from the Caspian Sea and successfully hit the targets from a distance of 2,500 km. On December 8, Russia conducted its first submerged combat launch of a Kalibr long-range cruise missile. Missiles were launched by the Rostov-on-Don Diesel-electric submarine, successfully hitting all designated targets.

The frequency and efficiency of the Russian airstrikes has been growing by the day. As a whole, in the course of the operation combat aircraft made over 5,200 sorties and eliminated several hundred terrorists and thousands of their facilities, including command points, ammo and fuel depots, training camps, and oil-producing sites.

Growth of Terrorism Across the World

French President Francois Hollande

The outgoing year was marked by a series of brutal terrorist attacks around the world, which revived the global terrorist threat.

On January 7, three gunmen armed with Kalashnikov rifles entered the office of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in central Paris. They killed 12 people and injured a number of others. The weekly is known for publishing cartoons mocking religions, including Islam.

In the three days following the attack a total of 17 people were killed, including a female police officer south of Paris and four hostages in a Paris kosher food supermarket.

The world community reacted by creating a wave of support for Charlie Hebdo on social media and in the streets of Paris posting and carrying slogans “Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie).

French President Francois Hollande is surrounded by Heads of state as they attend the solidarity march (Marche Republicaine) in the streets of Paris January 11, 2015.

On October 10, twin blasts hit the Turkish capital of Ankara ahead of a peaceful anti-war march meant to call attention to violence in the Turkey-Kurdish conflict. The death toll in the suicide blasts was 102 and over 400 people were injured.  The attack was the deadliest of its kind in Turkey’s modern history. No organization has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. However, according to the Turkish authorities, one of the suicide bombers was identified and suspected of having links to Daesh. Investigators also found out he was linked to the perpetrator of the blast in Turkey’s Suruc on July 20, which killed 33 people.

On October 31, a Russian Airbus A321 passenger aircraft crashed in the Sinai Peninsula. Russia’s Federal Security Service identified the crash as an act of terrorism.

Belgian police stage a raid, in search of suspected muslim fundamentalists linked to the deadly attacks in Paris, in the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek, November 16. 2015.

On November 13, a series of coordinated terrorist attacks rocked Paris and its northern suburb, Saint-Denis. Three suicide bombers blew themselves up near the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, followed by shootings at cafes and restaurants and at the Bataclan concert hall in Paris.

The attackers killed 130, including 89 at Bataclan, and wounded nearly 370 people. The attacks were the deadliest in France since World War II and the deadliest in Europe since the Madrid train bombings in 2004.

Situation in Paris after series of terror attacks

Daesh claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying they were in retaliation for France’s involvement in airstrikes against Daesh targets, carried out by a US-led coalition.

French President Francois Hollande said the attacks were an act of war by Daesh. They were planned in Syria and organized in Belgium, he said. Following the attacks, the French government decided to intensify its fight against Daesh terrorists in Syria.

A spent cartrdige lies on the ground as police officers secure the area after at least one person opened fire at a social services agency in San Bernardino.

On December 2, a shooting at Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino claimed the lives of 14 people and injured 21 others. Police identified the shooters as a US-born man of Pakistani origin Syed Farook and his Pakistani wife Tashfeen Malik.

On December 6, in his Oval Office address, President Barack Obama called the shooting an act of terrorism.

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said on Friday that it had found indications that the two perpetrators had been under the influence of radical ideas. Later media reports claimed that Farook and Malik had contacts with Islamist organizations, including the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front and Daesh.

Crash of Russian Airbus A321 Passenger Plane in Sinai

On October 31, a Kogalymavia Airbus A321 passenger airliner crashed in the Sinai Peninsula, en route to St. Petersburg from the Egyptian resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh. All 224 people aboard were killed. The crash became the deadliest air accident in the history of Russian aviation.

Initially, all possible reasons behind the crash were considered. However, the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) later said the plane crashed as a result of a terrorist attack.

Russian Airbus A321 passenger airliner crash site in Egypt

Daesh in Egypt claimed responsibility for the crash, saying it was a bomb explosion.

According to the FSB, the detonation of a homemade explosive device with an equivalent of 1 kilogram of TNT caused the crash of the aircraft.

Downing of a Russian Su-24 Bomber by Turkey

Russian war planes at Hmeimim base in Syria

On November 24, a Turkish jet shot down a Russian Su-24SM bomber involved in the Syrian military operation. Pilot Alexei Peshkov managed to eject but was shot dead by militants from the ground.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called the incident a “stab in the back” from those supporting terrorists.

The incident has plunged the relations between Moscow and Ankara in deep crisis.

In response to this act of aggression, Russia imposed a set of countermeasures against Turkey, including restrictions in tourism, energy cooperation, and joint construction projects. Moscow also imposed an embargo on imports of some foods from Turkey.

Russia has also accused Turkey of supporting militant groups in Syria. The Defense Ministry presented evidence of the involvement of President Tayyip Erdogan and his family in trading illegal Daesh oil.

70th Anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War

The Great Patriotic War is one of the most important events in country’s history. The Soviet Union is estimated to have lost about 27 million people in World War II. The military casualties exceeded 8.7 million, which is more than a half of the total allied death toll.

This year, festivities dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the greatest victory of the Russian military were held all across the country.

On May 9, some 12 million people participated in the “Immortal Regiment” march throughout Russia. In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin joined a column of people carrying portraits of their relatives who fought in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-45.

Russian President Vladimir Putin participates in march of Immortal Regiment in downtown Moscow

On May 9, Moscow also hosted the key event of the day – a grandiose military parade on Red Square. The commemoration was ignored by the leaders of many nations which were Soviet allies in the fight against the Nazis, including the US, Britain and France.

The parade involved 16,000 troops, 143 military aircraft and helicopters and 194 pieces of military hardware.

Among them were the Armata platform, Yars missile systems, Iskander-M tactical missile systems, Msta-S self-propelled guns as well as advanced air-defenses, including the Tor-M2U, Pantsir-S1, and the S-400 Triumf.