ON THE BATTLEFRONT

Putin Defends Syria Airstrikes

Syrian troops supported by Russian airstrikes advanced against rebels on Sunday President Vladimir Putin defended Moscow's military intervention in the war-torn country. Putin told Russian state media Rossiya One TV the aim was to "stabilize the legitimate authority" of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and to "create conditions for a political compromise." The Russian president also denied that air strikes were targeting moderate opposition groups rather than ISIS militants. Meanwhile, government security forces were reportedly making gains in heavy clashes in Idlib, Hama and Latakia provinces, according to both Damascus and opposition activists. Moscow said on Sunday its aircraft carried out more than 60 missions over Syria in the past 24 hours.