Russian Military in Syria

A Russian combat aircraft at Khmeimim airbase in Syria being prepared for action. (Russian Ministry of Defence)

Russia began its military engagement in Syria in support of the Assad government on September 30th 2015, in a campaign dominated by intense airstrikes, and later also by artillery actions. While Moscow initially claimed to be targeting so-called Islamic State, it soon became clear that rebel-held areas of Syria were its main focus. The campaign eventually saw much of Syria return to Assad government control.

More than 45,000 airstrikes were declared in just the first three years of fighting – many targeting civilian areas and infrastructure according to observers. More than 24,000 non-combatants have been locally alleged killed either by Moscow’s actions, or in events where communities were unable to distinguish between Russian and regime attacks. Russia itself still publicly maintains no civilians have been harmed in its strikes.

Length of Campaign
Declared Russian Armed Sorties in Syria as of September 2019
Alleged civilian casualty incidents assessed

Airwars estimate of civilian deaths


Locally reported civilian deaths from declared or likely Russian Military actions in Iraq and Syria for which the reporting was assessed by Airwars as Fair, or have been Confirmed by the Russian Military. These originate from 1,344 separate alleged incidents.

1,152–1,406 children likely killed
627–760 women likely killed
6,519–10,196 likely injured
3,199 named victims

Russian Military estimate of civilian deaths


Confirmed civilian deaths, from Russian Military actions in Syria, originating from 0 separate incidents of civilian harm.

0 civilians confirmed injured

Alleged deaths 15,398–24,787

Locally reported civilian deaths from Russian Military actions in Syria.

4,752 separate alleged incidents

Confirmed or fair
Confirmed: A specific belligerent has accepted responsibility for civilian harm.
Fair: Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.

Civilian deaths for which the reporting was assessed by Airwars as Fair, or have been Confirmed by the Russian Military.

1,344 separate alleged incidents

Weak: Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.

Civilian deaths for which the reporting was assessed by Airwars as Weak.

463 separate alleged incidents

Contested: Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.

Civilian deaths for which the reporting is assessed by Airwars as Contested.

2,893 separate alleged incidents

Discounted: Those killed were combatants, or other parties most likely responsible.

Civilian deaths were Discounted by Airwars after assessment.

18 separate alleged incidents

Reported civilian deaths from Russian Military strikes in Syria

Due to large variations in the quality of reporting, Airwars provisionally grades allegations of civilian harm using a standardised methodology across all belligerents and conflicts. The five categories are explained in full on our Methodology page. Individual events are recorded in the Civilian Casualties pages.

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Credit: Airwars Graphic
Source: Airwars