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Fact Check: Hillary Clinton Claims Russia Has ‘Not Gone After ISIS’

While Hillary Clinton claimed that the Russians "have not gone after ISIS or any of the other terrorist groups," a recent report claims that Russian airstrikes have allowed Assad to gain more power by weakening both ISIS and rebel groups such as the Free Syrian Army.

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During the latest Democratic Debate Thursday, Hillary Clinton defended her reservations towards Russia by claiming that the Russians “have not gone after ISIS or any of the other terrorist groups.”

Clinton’s statement was in response to comments made by rival Bernie Sanders when he was asked if he was prepared to “move militarily” against Russia, or to “institute further economic sanctions.”

Sanders called the United States’ relationship with Russia “complicated,” and said that although he believes the U.S. should “do our best in developing positive relations with Russia,” he also stands by President Obama in believing that Russian President Vladimir Putin needs to be shown that his “aggressiveness is not going to go unmatched.”

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Clinton replied that she believes an agreement on a cease-fire is “something that has to be implemented more quickly than the schedule that the Russians agreed to.”

[pull_quote_center]You know, the Russians wanted to buy time. Are they buying time to continue their bombardment on behalf of the Assad regime to further decimate what’s left of the opposition, which would be a grave disservice to any kind of eventual cease-fire?[/pull_quote_center]

Clinton also said she is worried that the Russians are doing “everything they can to destroy what’s left of the opposition,” and she claimed that “the Russians have not gone after ISIS or any of the other terrorist groups.”

[pull_quote_center]So let’s support what Secretary Kerry and the president are doing, but let’s hope that we can accelerate the cease-fire, because I fear that the Russians will continue their bombing, try to do everything they can to destroy what’s left of the opposition. And remember, the Russians have not gone after ISIS or any of the other terrorist groups.[/pull_quote_center]

Russia began launching airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria in Sept. 2015. Syrian State media claimed the airstrikes began after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad requested help, and that the move was criticized by the U.S.

[RELATED: Russian-Backed Syrian Army Defeats ISIS at Aleppo]

A report from Reuters on Jan. 20 claimed that Russian airstrikes in Syria are gradually weakening both ISIS militants and the Free Syrian Army, allowing Assad to gain more power and to make one of its most significant gains since the start of the Russian intervention,” by capturing the town of Salma in Latakia province.

The report noted that out of the “3,000 people killed by Russian air strikes in Syria since they began in September, nearly 900 were members” of ISIS. The group lost control of the city of Ramadi in December, and has cut fighters’ pay since its “oil-smuggling operations are hit by plunging prices.”

However, the report also noted that Russia’s operation has harmed rebel groups in the area, who are “reporting intensified air strikes and ground assaults in areas of western Syria that are of greatest importance to Assad.”

[RELATED: Reality Check: Proof U.S. Government Wanted ISIS To Emerge In Syria]

Investigative journalist Ben Swann reported on the origin of ISIS in March 2015, and he noted that ISIS grew out of a group of U.S.-backed rebels who were attempting to defeat Assad.

However, Swann said that even when the U.S. government became aware that ISIS was capturing U.S. equipment, it did nothing, “because ISIS fighters were taking the equipment back into Syria to continue fighting Assad, which was what the U.S. government wanted.”

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