"We Know Who They Are": Putin Claims "State Provocateur" Behind "Terrorist Drones" In Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin slammed those behind the massive drone attack on Russia's two Syrian bases which took place on January 6, saying in front of a large Russian media conference Thursday, "There were some provocateurs, but they were not Turks. We know who they are, who paid who for this provocation and what the actual sum was." Meanwhile the Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah reports that Putin has privately informed Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of which "provocateur" was behind a drone attack.

Earlier this week we reported that the Russian military in Syria thwarted the highly coordinated attack on Khmeimim air base and the Russian Naval facility in the city of Tartus, intercepting 13 heavily armed UAVs launched by terrorists. And underreported in international media was also a prior New Year's Eve attack carried out by a small squad of insurgents armed with mortars who were able to kill two Russian servicemen while damaging up to seven aircraft at Khmeimim Airbase, which constituted the single largest loss of Russian military hardware throughout the Syria campaign.


Though both attacks would appear to be merely the work of Islamist rebel factions occupying nearby Idlib, multiple extraordinary factors led the Russian Ministry of Defense to immediately state that the perpetrators must have had outside state sponsorship. First there was - as the Russian Ministry of Defense mentioned in an early media statement - "strange coincidences" surrounding the terrorist attack: these included a US spy plane spotted in the area, namely a US Navy’s Boeing P-8 Poseidon reconnaissance aircraft on patrol between the Khmeimim airbase and Tartus naval base in Syria during the time of the attack. 

Secondly, the airbase lies deep within Syrian regime territory in what is among the most secure areas in all of Syria, which also underscores the need for advanced satellite and navigational coordination from a state actors. The Russian military claims the drones came from the village of Muwazarra in Idlib, around 50 miles away, which makes Ahrar Al Sham or Hay’at Tahrir Al Sham the immediate culprit. Both groups, though blacklisted as terror organizations by the Pentagon, have received direct and indirect assistance by the CIA and allied intelligence services at various points over the course of the war, especially during the 2015 campaign to wrest Idlib city from the control of the Syrian government.


Origination points of recent wave of drone attacks on Russian and Syrian forces locations. Map via Syria Live Update

Third, the Russian military in its examination of the recovered drones found high tech components well beyond what initially appeared to be rebel-made improvised devices manufactured locally. Putin went so far as to say the drones and explosives were purposefully made to appear primitive and homemade in order to conceal the advanced technology they were outfitted with. On Thursday he said, "As for these attacks, they were undoubtedly prepared well. We know when and where these unmanned vehicles were handed over [to the attackers], and how many of them there were. These aerial vehicles were disguised - I would like to stress that - as homemade. But it is obvious that some high-tech equipment was used."

Russia has yet to reveal the identity of those responsible, but has strongly hinted at the United States or a regional US ally, which elicited a Pentagon response this week with a spokesperson saying the suggestion is "without any basis in fact and is utterly irresponsible."

The UK Daily Mail featured detailed Russian defense photographs of the recovered drones, which were noted to be "immune to jamming technology" and summarized the advanced capabilities as follows:

  • "Jam-resistant terrorist drones" could not have been made without foreign help, Russia says 

  • They carried sophisticated software and precision-guided weaponry

  • The explosives they carried were 'stuffed with ball bearings'


Recovered drones used in the attack featured in a photograph published by RT.


Image source: TASS

Though as the Daily Beast notes anti-government insurgents in Syria have long had access to black market drones sold through social media, Russia has consistently pointed to the high tech navigational and weapons components added. An earlier Russian Defense Ministry statement said the attack needed a "high-level engineer" and that "not every country is able to get sharp coordinates using space intelligence data" while also citing the presence of "foreign detonating fuses". The statement further indicated that, "Russian specialists are determining supply channels, through which terrorists had received the technologies and devices, as well as examining type and origin of explosive compounds used in the IEDs."

And given Putin's words on Thursday, it sounds like Russia believes it has proof of the outside sponsor of the operation - though it's unclear why it is not forthcoming with the evidence as it has been in some past incidents. It could be that Russian defense doesn't actually have the level of proof needed to convince an international audience, or the more likely scenario perhaps involves the delicacy of Russia's current attempts to negotiate a settlement to the war and continued military withdrawal of its forces.

Regarding these negotiations, Putin said on Thursday of the recent attacks on its Syrian bases, "Those were provocations aimed at disrupting the earlier agreements, in the first place. Secondly, it was about our relations with our partners - Turkey and Iran. It was also an attempt to destroy those relations." Last November a trilateral Syria deal was reached between Russia, Turkey, and Iran in Sochi, Russia over the future of Syria which emphasized winding down the war while keeping the country intact and creating a humanitarian and diplomatic solution, and also included planned Moscow-sponsored talks between the Syrian government and recognized opposition.

The US and other Western powers were notably excluded from the talks, which many analysts now see as signifying that Putin is in the driver's seat when it comes to setting the final terms for winding down the war. Russia suspects that the latest attacks on Khmeimim are provocations designed to introduce suspicion among signatories to the deal, especially those elements of the Syrian opposition set to meet for continued Russian sponsored negotiations at the end of January.

Interestingly, the Russian Foreign Ministry actually previously warned of "staged provocations" aimed at doing just this in the days prior to the first January mortar attack on Khmeimim. As we reported at the time of a prior missile attack on the base, FM spokesperson Maria Zakharova warned at a December 28 press conference that ongoing attacks were "another link in the chain of ongoing and, perhaps, staged provocations involving terrorists and extremists from the Syrian opposition aimed at disrupting the positive trends in the development of the situation in Syria and, in particular, at creating obstacles to convening and holding the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi on January 29-30."

Also notable in terms of the potential for US involvement, which also affirms that Russian suspicions are not mere "paranoia," is that one of the high level planners behind CIA operations in Syria, former CIA Acting Director Michael Morell, declared publicly that "we need to make the Russians pay the price" in Syria by "covertly" killing them via proxies.

The CIA's Morell said the following in a televised Charlie Rose interview at that time:

Morell: We need to make the Iranians pay the price in Syria; we need to make the Russians pay the price.

Rose: We make them pay the price by killing Russians and killing Iranians?

MorellYes. Covertly. You don't tell the world about it. You don't stand at the Pentagon and say we did this. But you make sure they know it in Moscow and Tehran. I want to go after those things that Assad sees as his personal power base. I want to scare Assad. I want to go after his presidential car. I want to bomb his offices in the middle of the night. I want to destroy his presidential aircraft. I want to destroy his presidential helicopters. I want to make him think we are coming after him.

With such brazen and public past admissions by US intelligence officials it is clear that no scenario should be taken off the table regarding what happened with these recent technologically advanced attacks on Russian assets in Syria. This could indeed very likely be the United States or a regional state actor making Russians "pay the price" for being there




JSBach1 D503 Fri, 01/12/2018 - 14:18 Permalink

"MorellYes. Covertly. You don't tell the world about it. You don't stand at the Pentagon and say we did this. But you make sure they know it in Moscow and Tehran. I want to go after those things that Assad sees as his personal power base. I want to scare Assad. I want to go after his presidential car. I want to bomb his offices in the middle of the night. I want to destroy his presidential aircraft. I want to destroy his presidential helicopters. I want to make him think we are coming after him."

...spoken like a true psychopath that he and others like him who hold/held high-ranking positions think about day-in and day-out ...

a fitting end for such vermin is the gallows...


[EDIT]: Remember this article: Israel Threatens To Bomb Assad's Presidential Palace ...

... or this: Yoav Galant, a former general said: "...time has come to assassinate Assad...And when we finish with the tail[Syria] of the serpent, we will reach the head of the serpent, which can be found in Tehran, and we will deal with it, too"


... or then SOS Hillary Clinton, as provided by Wikileaks, stated: "The best way to help Israel deal with Iran's growing nuclear capability is to help the people of Syria overthrow the regime of Bashar Assad...

Iran's nuclear program and Syria's civil war may seem unconnected, but they are. For Israeli leaders, the real threat from a nuclear-armed Iran is not the prospect of an insane Iranian leader launching an unprovoked Iranian nuclear attack on Israel that would lead to the annihilation of both countries. What Israeli military leaders really worry about -- but cannot talk about -- is losing their nuclear monopoly. An Iranian nuclear weapons capability would not only end that nuclear monopoly but could also prompt other adversaries, like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, to go nuclear as well. The result would be a precarious nuclear balance in which Israel could not respond to provocations with conventional military strikes on Syria and Lebanon, as it can today."


Why is it that top US officials sound almost exactly like their Israeli counterparts...who speaks for whom (rhetorical question)???

In reply to by D503

peddling-fiction stizazz Fri, 01/12/2018 - 19:13 Permalink

I have a feeling that Jordan somehow is involved as well, or Jordan is wandering off the reservation.

Look at the dirt that just was flung at Jordan by the Russians.


In a tale of forbidden love, secret princes, madness and murder that would be difficult to believe as the plot of an airport paperback, the CIA has declassified documents showing that King Hussein of Jordan had a child out of wedlock with an American Jewish actress - who was later killed by their own lovechild.

Edgy-Tyler, do you dare put that article on ZH?

Note to myself: Need to buy lots of popcorn.

In reply to by stizazz

Scipio Africanuz JSBach1 Fri, 01/12/2018 - 20:23 Permalink

You're absolutely correct, they're scared. Trump gave them what was not in his power to give, Jerusalem. They couldn't take possession because the entire world, less the brigands, said hell no!

The wound is a fatal one for the isreali regime, just a matter of time now, all their plans and actions, achieve the opposite of their desires, from Iraq, to Syria, to Iran. The world is woke!

In reply to by JSBach1

monk27 JSBach1 Sat, 01/13/2018 - 01:16 Permalink

It's US ! Neither Israel, nor the Saudis can afford a truly bad relationship with the Russians. The Israelis have about 20% of their so-called Jewish population of Soviet/Russian origin. The Saudis wouldn't want to risk both an oil war with the Russians and even a bigger loss of market in China. So, it's us... However, the problem with the Russians is this simple: there is always payback ! We used to know that, but then we decided to became world renowned foreign policy morons. I guess we'll have our chance to re-learn it... the hard way...

In reply to by JSBach1

HowdyDoody JSBach1 Fri, 01/12/2018 - 15:17 Permalink

The article is bullshit. The APCs could have been supplied by the Turks. They could have been supplied by Gulenist/CIA agents in Turkey. They could have been captured by US-ISIS forces from the Turkish forces in Syria. They could have been captured from the Turks by US-Kurd forces and supplied to US-ISIS forces. Transport vehicles are strategically irrelevant. Now if the floodgates for ISIS reinforcements was opened, that would be strategically significant. By one of those amazing coinkydinks, the US-Kurds released hundreds of US-ISIS 'prisoners' shortly before the attacks. I bet they didn't go on R&R after release.

Putin has confirmed the Turks were not involved in the swarm attack and it was intended to drive a wedge between Turkey and Russia. The supply of Turkish vehicles ditto. Qui bono?






In reply to by JSBach1

JSBach1 HowdyDoody Fri, 01/12/2018 - 17:31 Permalink

HD: (BTW I did not junk you)


I do not believe the article I referenced insinuated that those vehicles came from Dubai (if that is what you are alleging) or what was the originating source, only that it was a variant of one that is known to produce "Special Purpose Vehicles" in Dubai -- but that Turkey was used as a conduit to supply weapons (bolded text my own): 


"The Syrian army captured one of the the new armored personal carriers. The various pictures and videos show a variant of the Armored Panthera F9 produced by the company Minerva SPVwhich resides in Dubai, United Arab Emirates."

Turkey (again) delivered hundreds of tons of weapons to the jihadis. New supplies of TOW anti-tank missiles, distributed exclusively by the CIA, have also been seen. (Turkey is also again supplying jihadists in Libya. The Greek navy just caught a ship going from Turkey to Libya with 29 containers full of bomb precursors, detonators and other bomb making parts.)

Ali Özkök‏ @Ozkok_ - 10:06 AM - 11 Jan 2018
#Turkey supplied Feylaq el-Sham militia with at least six armoured vehicles. This is a major indicator that Turkey also supports the massive counter offensive of rebels and islamists in #Idlib and #Hama against Syrian army and allies! I guess we will see soon some ATGM strikes.

The "moderate" rebel forces where trying to stop the breakthrough by SAA to split their, the "moderate" rebels', pocket in Idlib region into two, thus encircling the eastern portion completely (look at the map provided in the aforementioned article). Is it not interesting that this new counteroffensive by the "moderate" rebels was aimed -- coincidentally to be sure /s -- at a breakthrough to the ISIS enclave that seems trapped in the eastern pocket (again see the map provided in the aforementioned article)?


The other thing to keep an eye on was this (bolded text my own): 

"The "rebels" in Idleb also set up a website with 150 pre-scripted tweets about killed children and barrel bombed hospitals which their fans can distribute at will. In the next few days we will hear news of the destruction of at least eight "last hospitals" in the Idleb governorate ..."


In reply to by HowdyDoody

BobEore Troglodyte Erudite Fri, 01/12/2018 - 20:49 Permalink

Are your suggesting that the UAE is behind it? Intriguing!

In the delicate dance between the members of the love-hate menage a trois -

Srael, Russia... and their jointly if somewhat chaotically managed puppet state Turkey...

the strings sometimes pull sharply this way, then sharply the other. Currently, the dynamic has shifted a bit to the Srael side, and the groupings of jihadist factions controlled by Ankara have been busy making signals of displeasure about the thwarting of the caliphs plans for further intrusions in north Syria/Rojava.

As a result... the drone drama. There is very little mystery about the source of the weaponry. It has doubtless been lab-tested and identified. Turkish military manufacturers have been busy turning out.. and seeking markets for... their new array of drones with the latest military applications. Their recent attendance at the s e Asian trade fair in Thailand with all their various arsenals on display was a sign of their eagerness to impress cash-rich clients. But the proof is in the pudding - as always - and therefore 'field demonstrations' the order of the day!

Masters of the tight-lipped \delayed response/kind of diplomatic warfare, the Russkies have observed this sally from their erstwhile 'partners' in tel aviv with the same discipline as was applied when their ambassador was offed in Turkey in a previous episode of tit for tat intrigue which the mediaz were unable to wrap their noggins round. And as always... foolish fanbouys will rush in ... on cue... with the usual blustery bullshit bout "CIAs" and other creatures of the night... hoping to ward off further erosion of a fake news storyline the wheels of which have been falling off to no end lately!




In reply to by Troglodyte Erudite

BigJim Arnold Fri, 01/12/2018 - 13:00 Permalink

 Earlier this week we reported that the Russian military in Syria thwarted the highly coordinated attack on Khmeimim air base and the Russian Naval facility in the city of Tartus, intercepting 13 heavily armed UAVs launched by terrorists

Hey Tyler, much as I'm rooting for Assad and Putin in this particular fight (ie, the attempt by the AA empire to overthrow Assad and install some compliant Sunni vassal government, or turn Syria into a failed state a la Libya) can you please remember attacks on military personnel, assets & weaponry aren't "terrorism".

In reply to by Arnold

chubbar Wild E Coyote Fri, 01/12/2018 - 14:10 Permalink

No one believes the US any longer, regardless of their story. It's pretty much common knowledge that the US has been assisting ISIS, not fighting them. No one remembers the 5,000 bombing sorties the US launched against ISIS for over a year and a half to almost no detriment to ISIS. Then Russia comes in and within 3 weeks decimates over 50% of them. How about the oil convoys to Turkey that the US was protecting, which was the funding source (besides CIA) of their weapons, no one remembers that shit going on either. 

I mean this is so obvious to those of us even loosely following this shit that you can rest assured that the rest of the gov'ts of the world actually understand what is going on.

The US will be standing alone when our economy crashes, by design. I just hope the warmongering stops and the cooperation begins, before WW3 gets started in earnest. The US needs to get out of the regime change business, pull it's troops back to within its' own borders and start thinking about how to get along with the rest of the world. Christ, the second the US wasn't around to bully NK, they started talking with SK about peace. That should be an indicator of how things would progress if the US would shut the fuck up and sit down.

In reply to by Wild E Coyote

deja chubbar Sat, 01/13/2018 - 08:50 Permalink

Problem is not believing the US any longer seems to be joined at the hip with believing everything Russia/China/Iran/etc., say.  All state actors twist the truth or lie outright to their benefit and the detriment of others.  They are all part of the same game, and the only way to win is to not play.

In reply to by chubbar

GreatUncle chubbar Sat, 01/13/2018 - 10:02 Permalink

+1 for the comment governments know exactly what is going on ... "yet they still continue to tell us BS".

Each time they quote bullshit like the UK prime minister about the Russians etc. it is doubling down on a losing hand.

Gets ludicrous ... governments need to be considered as "fake news outlets" until they start putting up proof.

No proof ... then we can infer you are just propagating more fake news.

Now when they tell us anything, more and more are realising they should "assuming it is another lie not truth".

In reply to by chubbar

BorraChoom Max Hunter Fri, 01/12/2018 - 15:00 Permalink

A group of militants which attacked Russia’s Khmeimim airbase in western Syria on New Year’s Eve has been eliminated in a high-precision strike, the Russian Defense Ministry said.
The group was found and killed by Russian Special Operations forces, according to the Ministry’s statement.
“During the final stage of the operation a Russian Special Operations unit located the base camp of the militant saboteur group near the western border of Idlib province. As the terrorists arrived at the location, the entire group was eliminated with a high-precision ‘Krasnopol’ weapon as they were about to board a minibus,” the statement reads.

In reply to by Max Hunter