WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — Russian combat planes at certain stages of air campaign in Syria were delivering 70-120 airstrikes per day compared to 2-5 carried out by US-led coalition, President Vladimir Putin said.
"Our pilots deliver, let's say, an average of 70-120 strikes [per day], while the entire international coalition led by the United States — two, three, five strikes per day. Every day. There is a difference. Everyone sees it," Putin told US filmmaker Oliver Stone in a third part of the interview broadcast by the Showtime television network.
Vladimir Putin also said that terrorists of the Islamic State group (Daesh) number about 80,000 people, 30,000 of them are mercenaries from 80 countries, including Russia.
"The approximate number of terrorists in Daesh ranks is 80,000. Some 30,000 are foreign mercenaries from 80 countries, including Russia," Putin said.
"Thousands of militants from the former Soviet Union and from today's Russia are fighting there [in Syria], and they can return to us, and we can not allow it. All this together led us to the actions that you know about [the beginning of the operation [in Syria]," Putin said.
"At the same time, we are perfectly aware of the fact that the current leadership in Syria made certain mistakes in building relations within its own country," the president added.
"It turned out that he [Assad] himself understands many problems, he is not only ready for dialogue with the opposition, including even with the armed opposition, but is ready to work with them on a new constitution," Putin said.
"He is even willing to accept that the future possible early presidential elections will be put under strict and tough international control," the Russian leader stressed.
"Many groups and tribes in Syria, including the Sunni tribes, told us they were ready to cooperate with us and fight against the Daesh. We informed President [Bashar] Assad and the Syrian military leadership about this, and said that we would support those Sunni groups that are ready to fight against Daesh and Nusra Front. President Assad and the Syrian military agree with that, in principle," Putin also said.
"We are not interested in fermenting the conflict, on the contrary, we are eager to establish a dialogue in order to preserve the territorial integrity of the country. It's very difficult. It's difficult to reach a consensus, but direct contact with both sides gives us such a chance. And in general we achieve success," Putin Putin said.
Putin stressed that Russia really needs the support of the United States, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt.
"But we will act very carefully so that each subsequent step solidifies the achieved results, rather than destroys them," the Russian president added.