Syria operation shows Russia can counter 'any threats': Putin

Smoke rising from what Russia says is a militant workshops near Sermania in Idlib province, Syria, after Russian planes launched an airstrike on it, in footage taken from the Russian Defence Ministry on Oct 19, 2015.
Smoke rising from what Russia says is a militant workshops near Sermania in Idlib province, Syria, after Russian planes launched an airstrike on it, in footage taken from the Russian Defence Ministry on Oct 19, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS/MINISTRY OF DEFENCE OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION

MOSCOW (AFP) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday (Oct 20) that Moscow's intervention in Syria demonstrates it can counter any threats, as the Kremlin flexes its muscles on the world stage.

"The operation has confirmed that Russia is ready to adequately and effectively respond to terrorist and any other threats to our country," Putin said in a speech to military and intelligence commanders at the Kremlin.

Moscow says it has hit some 500 "terrorist" targets since launching a bombing campaign in Syria on Sept 30 in support of ground offensives by the troops of long-standing ally President Bashar al-Assad.

The United States - which is leading a separate bombing campaign in coordination with other Western and Middle Eastern states - has meanwhile accused Russia of mainly targeting more moderate rebel groups battling Assad.

Russia is locked in a broader standoff with the West over the Ukraine crisis, with ties plunging to their lowest point since the Cold War after Moscow seized Ukraine's Crimea peninsula in March 2014.

Inside the country, security forces - which have battled Russia's own Islamist insurgency in the North Caucasus - thwarted 20 terrorist acts, killed 112 militants and detained 560 more over the past year, Putin said.

"We need to keep acting just as energetically and effectively," Putin said.

Russia is increasingly wary of its citizens fighting abroad and has claimed that around 2,000 of them are among the ranks of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate Al-Nusra last week called on extremists in the Caucasus to attack Russia in retaliation for its air strikes in Syria.

Putin said that it was "critically important" to expose the ties between Russian militants and international terrorist groups and their backers.