Putin tells navy in Mediterranean to work with French 'as allies'

Russian warship the BSF Saratov 150 sails through the Bosphorus off Istanbul en route to the eastern Mediterranean in September (AFP Photo/Ozan Kose) (AFP/File)

Moscow (AFP) - President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday ordered the Russian navy in the Mediterranean to establish contact with its French counterparts and work together "as allies" in a campaign against the Islamic State group in Syria

Putin instructed his military to work out a joint Russian-French action plan against IS militants as he pushes the idea of establishing a broad anti-IS coalition that would involve both Russia and the West.

"It's necessary to establish direct contact with the French and work with them as allies," Putin told the military top brass at a meeting after French President Francois Hollande said the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle would be deployed to the eastern Mediterranean.

"It's necessary to work out with them a plan of joint actions both at sea and in the air," Putin said, adding that both the chief of the general staff and the defence ministry had received orders to that effect.

The Kremlin said separately that Putin and Hollande had agreed in phone talks to ramp up cooperation and tackle "international terrorism" together.

"It has been agreed to ensure closer contact and coordination between the military and security service agencies of the two countries during operations against terrorist groups by Russia and France in Syria," the Kremlin said in a statement following the phone call between Putin and Hollande.

The two will further discuss the fight against terrorism in a meeting in Moscow on November 26, the Kremlin said.

Putin has been seeking to capitalise on shifting dynamics in the West following Friday's terror attacks in Paris and the bombing of a Russian passenger plane over Sinai in October, arguing that Russia and the West should unite against a common enemy.

Earlier Tuesday Russia announced that the Airbus A321 carrying 224 people, most of them Russian tourists, was knocked out of sky by a bomb and pledged vengeance.

On Tuesday, Russian strategic bombers hit Islamic State group targets in Syria's Raqa and Deir Ezzor provinces, defence minister Sergei Shoigu said.

He added that cruise missile strikes had also hit Aleppo and Idlib provinces.

The strikes are the first time that Russia has deployed its strategic long-range bombers during its air campaign in Syria and came as Shoigu said Moscow had doubled the number of combat sorties it flew over the country.

In total, Shoigu said that Russian forces hit 206 "terrorist" targets in Syria in the latest wave of strikes.

Apart from a spate of missiles fired from its Caspian Sea fleet in October, up until now Moscow has mainly relied on smaller fighter jets to hit targets in Syria but has now deployed the more powerful long-range bombers from Russian territory.