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. 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. More than 39,000 airstrikes were declared in the first three years of fighting – many of them targeting civilian areas and infrastructure according to observers.

While the campaign saw much of Syria return to Assad government control, as many as 23,000 non-combatants were also locally alleged killed by Moscow’s actions to October 2019 – though Russia itself publicly maintains no civilians have been harmed in its strikes. While Airwars continues to monitor and research all local claims daily, our comprehensive online assessments of Russian civilian harm allegations presently run only to October 31st 2019.

Length of Campaign
Russian Military Strikes in Syria
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 1,192 separate alleged incidents.

1,086–1,323 children likely killed
595–721 women likely killed
6,100–9,482 likely injured
3,121 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 14,212–23,062

Locally reported civilian deaths from Russian Military actions in Syria.

4,081 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.

1,192 separate alleged incidents

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

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

398 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.

2,443 separate alleged incidents

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

Civilian deaths were Discounted by Airwars after assessment.

17 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