Russia will begin a major naval exercise in the Mediterranean on Saturday, the Ministry of Defense announced, a move the Kremlin said was justified by a failure to deal with militants in Syria’s Idlib province, according to Reuters.
Idlib and areas surrounding it are the last major enclave held by rebels opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a close Russian ally, and a source has told Reuters he is preparing a phased offensive to regain it.
“This hotbed of terrorists (in Idlib) does really not bode anything good if such inaction continues,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call.
The United Nations has called on Russia, Iran and Turkey to delay a battle that could affect millions of civilians.
U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura told reporters that there was a high concentration of foreign fighters in Idlib, including an estimated 10,000 terrorists, but it would be better to set up humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians than rush into a battle which could turn prove to be a “perfect storm”.