Syrian president Bashar al-Assad says his forces are advancing on "almost" all fronts thanks to Russian airstrikes that began nearly two months ago and have tipped the balance in his favor in some parts of the country. In remarks published Sunday, Assad told China's Phoenix Television that the Russians depend on Syrian ground forces and "cooperate with us." He added Syrian troops had achieved victories in some areas before the strikes began but "could not be present everywhere in Syria." Russia, which has conducted an air campaign in Syria since Sept. 30, sharply raised its intensity in recent days on President Vladimir Putin's orders after Moscow said it had confirmed that a bomb brought down a Russian plane over Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. ISIS claimed responsibility.
"Following the participation of Russian air force in fighting terrorism, the situation improved well. I can say that the army now is advancing almost on every front," Assad said, praising the Russian airstrikes as more effective than those of the US-led coalition because Moscow is coordinating with his government, adding "you cannot fight terrorism with airstrikes alone." Syrian troops have captured dozens of villages in northern and western Syria since the Russian airstrikes began. Asked if he is going to run for president again if early elections are held, Assad said: "It is my right but it is early to say whether I will run or not." He added that "I will not say that I will not run if I see that this is needed." (Read more Syria stories.)