Wednesday was Vladimir Putin’s 63rd birthday. To celebrate, he played ice hockey with some aging stars, scoring seven goals in a 15-10 win. Putin also ordered the launch of 26 cruise missiles into Syria from warships that were stationed nearly 1,000 miles away.
“That we fired from the territory of the Caspian Sea, at a range greater than 1,500 kilometers, and hit targets precisely, this shows high qualifications,” Putin bragged in a televised interview with his defense minister. (Russia also put the display of military firepower on YouTube.)
Also notable about this brazen show of might is that the missiles traveled through two countries, Iran and Iraq, before hitting their 11 targets in Syria. This means that both countries either gave their permission or simply didn’t confront Putin about the use of their airspace on his birthday.
But as with nearly any good birthday fête, Thursday brought a hangover:
That’s right, Russian Icarus’s reckless gambit has potentially backfired—though it’s still unclear whether the missiles that reportedly crashed in Iran were launched Thursday or were launched on Wednesday.
“Monitoring by U.S. military and intelligence assets has concluded that at least four missiles crashed as they flew over Iran,” two officials told CNN’s Barbara Starr. “One official said there may be casualties, but another official said this is not yet known.”
Russian media said the Iranian defense ministry called the reports “intensified western propaganda.”
But if the reports are true, this development has another irony. Earlier on Thursday, reports detailed just how assiduously Iran had lobbied Russia to begin its controversial airstrike campaign in Syria.