A top Russian commander has said that Moscow and Syrian government forces have made swift progress in the last month driving Islamic State (IS) militants from central Syria and a last major stronghold in the east.
Colonel General Sergei Rudskoi, speaking to reporters in Moscow on August 21, said Russian jets had killed an estimated 800 militants this month alone and were now making 60 to 70 flights a day to target militants heading from other areas to join the fight in the eastern stronghold of Deir el-Zour.
He said Syrian troops were advancing from three directions to encircle Deir el-Zour and break the militant siege there, and the government now controls around half the city and a nearby air base.
"The main aim is to destroy the last stronghold of the terrorists in the Deir el-Zour region," he said.
Rudskoi also said that the central part of Syria had seen a "dramatic shift," with the Syrian Army taking complete control of the province of Aleppo from IS fighters in 50 population centers.
Rudskoi said militants fleeing U.S.-backed offensives in the Iraqi city of Mosul and the Syrian city of Raqqa had poured into Deir el-Zour in recent months to stage a final stand.
This month alone, Ruskoi said Russian warplanes had flown 990 missions, destroying 40 armored vehicles, more than 100 trucks, and killing about 800 militants.
Those casualties include more than 200 militants killed in a recent raid on an IS convoy heading toward Deir el-Zour, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.
Rudskoi said the creation of de-escalation zones in Syria under a plan worked out with Turkey and Iran has helped the Russian military to focus on battling IS.
With reporting by AP, Reuters, TASS, and Interfax