(Refiles to fix typo in number of training camps in 4th
MOSCOW Dec 22 Russian air strikes in Syria have
killed 35,000 rebel fighters and succeeded in halting a chain of
revolutions in the Middle East, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu
said on Thursday.
Speaking at a gathering of top military officials that
appeared designed to showcase Russia's military achievements,
Shoigu said Moscow's intervention had prevented the collapse of
the Syrian state.
"We are now stronger than any potential aggressor,"
President Vladimir Putin said at the same event at the Defence
Ministry in Moscow.
Shoigu said Russian aircraft had flown 18,800 sorties in
Syria since the start of the Kremlin's operation there last
year, destroying 725 training camps, 405 sites where weapons
were being made and killing 35,000 fighters.
"The chain of 'colour revolutions' spreading across the
Middle East and Africa has been broken," Shoigu said.
Russia's intervention in Syria is widely seen as having
saved President Bashar al-Assad's forces from defeat and as
being crucial to their retaking full control of Aleppo.
Shoigu also said Russia's nuclear missile forces would next
year be swelled by three extra units armed with modern weaponry
and that the air force would receive five modernised strategic
But Putin warned that while Russia's military power had
grown substantially, "if we don't want that to change we had
better not lose focus."
(Reporting by Peter Hobson; Editing by Andrew Osborn)