As Putin acknowledges terror attack brought down Russian plane in Sinai, Hollande opens to an alliance with Moscow and Washington
Paris (AsiaNews) – President Vladimir Putin told Russian defence and security chiefs that terrorists brought down the Russian plane that crashed in the Sinai on 31 October, 20 minutes into its flight from Shark el-Sheikh to St Petersburg, killing 224 people.
“Not for the first time, Russia is confronted with barbaric terrorist crimes,” Putin told his top military brass. “We won’t wipe the tears out of our souls and hearts. This will remain with us forever. But it won’t stop us from finding and punishing the perpetrators.”
Alexander Bortnikov, head of the Federal Security Service (FSS), said that traces of foreign-made explosives were discovered in the wreckage of the plane and on the possessions of people killed in the crash. Investigators believe that a bomb containing 1 kilogram of explosive blew up the aircraft.
Russia’s statement comes two weeks after the United States and the United Kingdom had suggested a possible terror attack.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – Sinai Province had already claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that it was to “punish” Russian support for Bashar Assad in Syria.
Russia’s FSB is offering a US$ 50 million reward for information leading to the capture of those responsible for downing the aircraft in Egypt. At the same time, Putin said that Russian jets would continue to strike Islamic State (IS) positions in Syria.
The Russian president spoke a few days after the Paris terrorist attacks, which IS claimed and justified as retaliation for French airstrikes against its positions in Syria.
For French President Francois Hollande, the Paris bombings that killed 129 people and wounded 400 was an "act of war". Vowing to pursue the fight against IS in Syria, he extended a state of emergency in France to 3 months and called for special emergency powers, including a possible change to the constitution.
Next week Hollande will travel to Washington and Moscow to try to build up a coalition against the Islamic State group.
For the past year, the United States has led a coalition that includes some Arab countries in an air campaign against IS sites in Syria and Iraq, but with little success.
France joined the United States in conducting air strikes before Russia's decision to do the same, a step taken at the request of Syrian President Bashar al Assad.
Assad’s fate remains the main stumbling block to building such a coalition. For the United States and France, he has to go before any discussion can take place on Syria’s future.
For Russia, Assad and his government are the only bulwark preventing Syria from falling into chaos, after almost five years of war.
Speaking at the end of the G20 summit in Antalya (Turkey), Putin said that IS receives financial support from more than 40 countries, including “some of the G-20 members among them”.
The Russian leader was probably referring to Saudi Arabia and Turkey. The first supports Islamic groups opposed to Assad; the second has ostensibly turned a blind eye on illegal oil exports from IS-held areas and on recruits entering Syria through its territory to join the same jihadi group.