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Russian navy fires cruise missiles at IS in Syria

Russian defence ministry says strike targeted militants and equipment in an area east of Palmyra
Palmyra has changed hands several times during the Syrian war (AFP)

A Russian warship and submarine have fired four cruise missiles from the Mediterranean at Islamic State (IS) group targets near the Syrian city of Palmyra, the defence ministry said on Wednesday.

The strike, which Russian news agencies said was the first of its kind since November, was carried out by the frigate Admiral Essen and the submarine Krasnodar, against militants and equipment in an area east of Palmyra.

The defence ministry said the hardware and forces struck had previously been deployed by IS in Raqqa.

"All targets were destroyed," it said in a statement.

Russia had warned the United States, Turkey and Israel before launching the missiles, the ministry said.

It did not say when the strike took place, but Russian news agencies quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying that the defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, had personally told President Vladimir Putin about the military action late on Tuesday.

The last time Russia fired Kalibr cruise missiles from its ships at militant targets in Syria was in November last year, the RIA news agency said.

Putin hopes to forge an agreement with Turkey and Iran to create safe zones in Syria, which he said has the support of US President Donald Trump.

The zones still exist only on paper and the co-sponsors have until 4 June to finalise their borders under the terms of the agreement struck at peace talks in Kazakhstan in early May.

The agreement covers four main battlegrounds between the government and non-militant rebels - the northwestern province of Idlib, parts of Homs province in the centre, the south, and the opposition enclave of Eastern Ghouta near Damascus.

It builds on a ceasefire agreed between Russia and Turkey last December that reduced violence for a period but gradually fell apart.

Separately, photographs published on Wednesday by Turkish bloggers for their online Bosphorus Naval News project showed a Russian Syria-bound ship passing through the Bosphorus carrying a consignment of military trucks.