Russia has said that it will step up its air strikes in Syria after announcing that its air force has flown more than 60 sorties since September 30 and significantly reduced the military potential of "terrorists."
"We will not only continue attacks by our airplanes but will increase their intensity," Russian Defense Ministry official General Andrei Kartapolov said on October 3.
Kartapolov said that more than 50 Islamic State targets have been hit in air strikes by Russia.
He also said that some 600 militants had abandoned their positions and were trying to escape to Europe.
"Our intelligence shows that militants are leaving areas under their control. Panic and desertion have started in their ranks," Kartapolov said in a statement.
Speaking to reporters, Kartapolov said that Russia had warned the United States before launching air strikes and recommended that it stop its flights in areas where the Russian Air Force would be operating.
He also said that the United States had told the Russian Defense Ministry that “there was no one but terrorists” in the areas targeted by Russia.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on October 3 that Russian warplanes have conducted more than 20 air strikes in Syria over the past 24 hours targeting nine Islamic State sites.
He also said a Russian Air Force bomber had struck an Islamic State camp and destroyed with a KAB-500 bomb seven pieces of heavy military equipment, a weapons storehouse, as well as a terrorist fortification.
The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights -- which monitors the conflict with a network of sources on the ground -- said at least 39 civilians, including eight children and eight women, had been killed in Russian air strikes in Syria in the past four days.
It said 14 fighters had been killed -- 12 from the Islamic State militant group around the eastern city of Raqqa and two from the Al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front.
On October 3, British Prime Minister David Cameron said that Russia’s actions in Syria are supporting the “butcher” president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad.
Cameron said that Russia’s military forces are not discriminating between Islamic State extremists and the more moderate opposition forces fighting against Assad.
Russia earlier this week announced its decision to launch strikes on Syria, in a dramatic escalation of foreign involvement in the more than four-year-old civil war.
Washington is worried that Moscow is more concerned about keeping Assad in power rather than fighting terrorism.
Early Russian air strikes seemingly targeting anti-Assad fighters -- and not IS positions, according to Washington -- have underscored such concerns.
With reporting by Reuters, AFP, AP, TASS, and Interfax