Russia is now carrying out airstrikes in Syria, U.S. officials said today, just hours after Russian lawmakers voted unanimously to allow Russian President Vladimir Putin to begin combat operations in support of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, according to an article in the Daily Mail.  

Sergei Ivanov, chief of Mr Putin's administration, said in the Daily Mail that the measure was necessary “not in order to achieve some foreign policy goals” but “in order to defend Russia's national interests.”

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Putin's decision to commence strikes came after his one-on-one meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama during the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York, where the two leaders discussed Russia's recent military build-up in Syria, after which Putin hosted a meeting of the Russian security council at his residence outside Moscow on Tuesday night, the Daily Mail reported. 

Ivanov stressed in the article that Moscow will not be sending ground troops to Syria but will only use its air force “in order to support the government Syrian forces in their fight against the Islamic State.”

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Ivanov said Russia began the airstrikes after Moscow received a request from Syrian President al-Assad asking for help, the Daily Mail stated.

Moscow has been a key Assad ally during the war in Syria, which began in 2011 and has left at least 250,000 dead and forced millions to flee the country, resulting in the record-breaking number of refugees fleeing to Europe this year.