Whether Russia knew ahead of time that Baghdadi would be present or whether a regular patrol combing the desert for concentrations of jihadists got lucky is unclear. I suspect the latter, and that over the last two weeks intelligence agencies of the major players have picked up chatter from the collapsing caliphate that its emir is no longer among the living.
Lavrov has been reticent to claim the public relations windfall, though there is an acknowledgement in the Western prestige press that Russia bagging Baghdadi pulls down the major rhetorical pillar erected by the Obama administration that the Russians weren't fighting ISIS but merely enabling a ruthless dictator. As Kramer explains,
Russia intervened in the Syrian civil war in 2015; it said at first that cargo planes flying to a Syrian air base carried only humanitarian aid, but later openly announced a military operation. The Kremlin’s stated goal was fighting the Islamic State, lest it gain a stronghold in Syria not far from restive, predominantly Muslim regions in southern Russia.
But the Obama administration said that the pattern of airstrikes showed that Russia’s real intention was to prop up the government of President Bashar al-Assad, a Russian ally battling a range of opposition groups, including moderate rebels. The killing of the Islamic State’s leader, if confirmed, would help bolster Russia’s initial justification for its intervention — that its goal all along was to fight terrorism.My feeling all along is that Baghdadi is merely a figurehead, that the operations and strategy of the Islamic State are determined by foreign intelligence agencies aligned with the United States. His death is nonetheless a significant event, another portent that the diabolical perversion of the Arab Spring by the United States and its allies is running out of steam.