Following the United States’ decision to shoot down a Syrian warplane, Russia has spoken out in support of the Syrian government, and has announced that will shoot down any U.S. warplanes in its airspace.
The Russian Ministry of Defense released a statement announcing that it is halting cooperation with the U.S. and its allies “in the framework of the Memorandum on the Prevention of Incidents and Ensuring Air Safety in Syria” following the coalition’s downing of a Syrian warplane on Sunday.
“In the areas of combat missions of Russian air fleet in Syrian skies, any airborne objects, including aircraft and unmanned vehicles of the [US-led] international coalition, located to the west of the Euphrates River, will be tracked by Russian ground and air defense forces as air targets.”
The Russian Defense Ministry also called for a thorough investigation into the coalition’s decision to shoot down the Syrian government’s military aircraft, noting that the incident “cynically violates” the sovereignty of the Syrian Arab Republic.
“What is it then, if not an act of aggression, an act directly in breach of international law,” Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told journalists in Moscow, quoted by Russia’s RIA news agency.
“If you want, it’s actually help for the terrorists the US is fighting, declaring that they are conducting a counterterrorism policy,” the deputy foreign minister added.
In the statement, the ministry said the U.S. Air Force had committed an act of “military aggression” against Syria, and it referred to the incident as “a conscious failure to comply with the obligations under the Memorandum on the Prevention of Incidents and Ensuring Air Safety in Syria.”
“The command of the coalition forces did not use the existing communication channel between the air commands of Al Udeid Airbase (in Qatar) and the Khmeimim Airbase to prevent incidents in Syrian airspace.”
Col. Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the American-led task force, told the New York Times that the U.S. will continue to conduct air operations, despite Russia’s warnings.
“We are going to continue to conduct operations throughout Syria, providing air support for coalition and partnered forces on the ground,” Dillon said.
As The Free Thought Project reported, the U.S.-led coalition claimed responsibility for the attack on Sunday, in a statement that blamed the Syrian government, and claimed its military aircraft was targeting the Syrian Democratic Forces near Raqqa.
“At 6:43pm, a Syrian regime SU-22 dropped bombs near SDF fighters south of Tabqah and, in accordance with rules of engagement and collective self-defense of Coalition partnered forces, was immediately shot down by a US F/A-18E Super Hornet.”
Syria has been adamant about the fact that its military was targeting ISIS fighters in the land surrounding Raqqa, the militant group’s self-proclaimed capital.
“This attack comes at a time when the Syrian Arab army and its allies are advancing in the fight against ISIS terrorists who are being defeated in the Syrian desert in more ways than one,” the Syrian military said in a statement.
Last week, a Syrian lawmaker accused the U.S. of directly transporting at least 120 ISIS militants to safety, before beginning an attack on the city that has included reports of illegal chemical weapons use, including white phosphorus.
While the United States has claimed its purpose is to eliminate ISIS from the region, Russia and Syria have claimed to have the same purpose. The U.S.-led coalition’s decision to shoot down a Syrian warplane is especially notable, because of the fact that the aircraft was targeting an area that the U.S. has been targeting with a barrage of airstrikes in recent weeks.
Russia and Syria have both accused the U.S. of aiding ISIS, and with Russia now supporting Syria to the extent that it is threatening to view U.S. warplanes as targets, it serves as a reminder that rather than helping to defeat a common enemy, the U.S. is laying the groundwork for a new, and concerning conflict between the two superpowers.