ISTANBUL -- Russia says it launched 26 cruise missiles Wednesday from its warships on the Caspian Sea.
They flew over 900 miles across Iran and Iraq, hitting parts of northern Syria where both ISIS and al Qaeda-linked fighters have a heavy presence.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said the high-precision Kalibr missiles, used for the first time, reflected good preparation and training by his country's military.
But the U.S. says Moscow's airstrikes in Syria are also targeting moderate, American-backed rebels, and that Russia's real goal in Syria is to prop up the Bashar al-Assad regime.
Protected by Russian air cover, regime troops began a ground offensive today in rebel strongholds. Opposition fighters hit back in some of the most intense fighting in several months.
But after four years of bloody civil war, Russia's air campaign may be tipping the balance in favor of the Syrian regime.