Images of the Russian President have started appearing on cars and billboards in Syria and Iraq in the past week. Cartoons of the Russia leader have also been widely shared on social media, portraying him as muscular and fearless, as his popularity soars in the region. In one, a bare-chested Putin holds ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi by the collar and says: “Where do you think you’re going? I’ll flatten you like flour.” Preachers have also hailed Russia’s military intervention as a turning point in the battle to defeat the depraved ISIS mentality.

One, Maamoun Rahmeh, declared Putin a “giant and beloved leader” who has “destroyed the myth of the self-aggrandising America” at a mosque in Damascus last week. Russia began its air campaign in Syria on September 30 after the US-led coalition struggled to dislodge ISIS militants for over a year. Russian ships in the Caspian Sea have also fired cruise missiles over Iran and Iraq to strike Raqqa and Aleppo provinces. MORE