VLADIMIR Putin has stepped up Russia's military presence in Syria and told the west it must back its leader Bashar al-Assad in order to tackle the growing threat of Islamic State (ISIS).
Vladimir Putin is preparing to launch attacks on ISIS in Syria
The superpower has brought in 28 fighter aircraft and thousands of soldiers to the war-torn Middle East country to support the Assad regime.
That puts Russia in direct opposition to a US-led coalition which has brought military action against the Syrian government.
The US has accused Syria of a series of atrocities against its own people.
But Putin said backing Assad was the only way to defeat the terrorism rapidly growing in the area.
In a televised interview Putin said action against Assad's government would "create a situation" seen in countries such as Libya "where all the state institutions are disintegrated".
He added: "There is no other solution to the Syrian crisis than strengthening the effective government structures and rendering them help in fighting terrorism."
And although the Russian president said there were no plans "right now" to put boots on the ground in Syria, he would continue to back Assad's "legitimate government".
ISIS troops in Syria are making advances towards Damascus
Children recently carried out executions in the now ISIS-controlled heritage site of Palmyra
Putins calls come as Britons also back a military offensive against ISIS.
Findings of a poll released today show nearly half (46 per cent) want troops on the ground fighting terrorists in Syria.
Only 31 per cent of those asked were against such an operation.
The survey, carried out by Sky News, also found almost three quarters backed bombing specific targets in the region.
It came weeks after it was revealed the Government had killed two Britons fighting for ISIS in a drone attack in Syria.
Assad's regime is at war with ISIS but the west is carrying out air strikes against both sides of the conflict.
ISIS blow up historic city of Palmyra
Islamic State fighters in Syria have reportedly blown up the ancient ruins of Palmyra, an ancient World Heritage home to renowned Roman-era ruins.
General view of the ancient city of Palmyra in central Syria.
Russia, an ally of Syria, has waded in over recent weeks, setting up a base in the country.
From there Putin's forces aim to carry out attacks on ISIS strongholds in the Middle East, as well as US-backed rebels against Assad.
The Russia president has also sent his generals to Baghdad to co-ordinate a policy with Iran and Iraq against the terror group.
There is no other solution to the Syrian crisis than strengthening the effective government structures and rendering them help in fighting terrorism
The opposition between America and Russia, which is also under pressure from NATO for the annexation of the Crimea, gave a sign of softening last week when US Secretary of State John Kerry talked of combining their efforts against ISIS, also known as ISIL.
French ISIS jihadis fighting in the Middle East in a still from a YouTube video
Satellite image of Russia's base in Syria
However, the sticking point remains Putin's alliance with Assad.
Kerry said: "Would we welcome Russian help in going against ISIL? Obviously. We have talked about it for some period of time".
Obama and Putin, pictured in Northern Ireland in 2013, are due to meet Monday
"But the other part of the equation is Assad and how you resolve the fact that he is a magnate for foreign fighters to come to the region."
On Monday, Putin is to meet with US president Barack Obama at the United Nations General Assembly to discuss the issue.
The Russian leader will also talk about sanctions imposed against the east European country over the Ukraine conflict.