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A Perfect Day For Bombing: Russian TV Forecasts Favorable Weather For Syria Strikes

  • Claire Bigg

According to one Russian TV station, the weather in Syria is currently ideal for a bombing campaign.

According to one Russian TV station, the weather in Syria is currently ideal for a bombing campaign.

As Russia presses ahead with air strikes in Syria, the Kremlin's push for domestic support for the offensive has spread to an unlikely area: weather forecasts.

On October 3, state-run television channel Rossiya-24 aired an exhaustive weather bulletin describing the current climatic conditions in Syria as "very favorable" for a bombing campaign.

"October in Syria is generally a propitious time for flights," said the weather presenter, standing against a backdrop detailing the average temperature, rainfall, wind speed, and number of cloudy days in October in the Middle Eastern country.

"Rain falls only once every 10 days and the most intensive rain, up to 18 millimeters, is usually observed in the north, where the operation by Russia's air force is underway," she continued. "But this cannot seriously affect the bombings."

According to the slick, three-minute forecast -- accompanied by Defense Ministry footage showing bombs hitting the ground and sending up huge plumes of smoke -- Syria's balmy autumn temperatures are also perfect for air strikes.

"Heat above 35 degrees is considered borderline for flights, and the thermometer rarely reaches this mark in Syria in October," the presenter said.

She went on to reassure viewers that the increased cloudiness brought on by the approach of winter should not derail the Russian strikes.

A graphic helpfully explained that the clouds usually lie between 4 and 10 kilometers above the ground -- higher than the "optimal altitude for bombings."

Russia abruptly began a campaign of air strikes in Syria on September 30, saying it is targeting Islamic State militants and other extremists in Moscow's biggest military offensive outside the former Soviet Union since that country fell apart in 1991.

'Wind Of Change'

The United States and its allies in a coalition that is bombing IS targets say many of the Russian strikes have hit more moderate opponents of Syria's government, and have expressed concern that Moscow's real aim is to prop up President Bashar al-Assad, whom Russia has backed throughout a civil war that has killed some 250,000 people since 2011.

There have also been reports of civilian casualties from the Russian strikes, which President Vladimir Putin has said would last "for the duration of Syrian Army offensives."

Weather-wise, the state TV report warned that there remains a threat of sandstorms -- which the Russian report pointedly said had occasionally paralyzed U.S. forces during the Gulf War.

The forecast, however, described sandstorms as a "rare occurrence" at this time of the year in Syria and predicted that Russia will be able to "end the operation quickly."

"Nature itself compels us to hurry," the anchor concluded sternly.

It's not the first time Russian television has infused politics into its weather forecasts.

In December 2013, weatherman Vadim Zavodchenkov blamed Kyiv's Euromaidan protests on the onset of winter during his forecast on Rossiya 24 and warned the demonstrators against "a sharp rise in acute respiratory viral infections in Kyiv."

In January 2014, he issued another health warning for the demonstrators, telling them they risked getting cancer from inhaling the toxic smoke from tires burning on the protest barricades.

In April, Zavodchenkov commented on the conflict in eastern Ukraine in thinly veiled remarks, saying "clouds were gathering in the sky" in that region and noting that "a cyclone triggered gusty winds -- perhaps a wind of change in Ukraine's Donetsk -- over the weekend."

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    Claire Bigg

    Claire Bigg covers Russia, Ukraine, and the post-Soviet world, with a focus on human rights, civil society, and social issues. Send story tips to BiggC@rferl.org​


     

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