Russia sends missile system to Syria
RUSSIA has sent an advanced missile system to the Syrian port of Tartus, as tensions escalate between it and the US over the five-year conflict.
The announcement came after Washington said it was suspending talks with Moscow aimed at reviving a ceasefire deal over Russia’s support for the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
On the ground, Mr Assad’s forces advanced on rebels during street fighting in the opposition-held east of Aleppo city, which Russia has been accused of bombing indiscriminately including targetting its hospitals.
Russia, which has denied its strikes have hit hospitals, said it was deploying an S-300 missile system to Tartus on the Mediterranean coast.
“The S-300 is a purely defensive system and poses no threat to anyone,” said defence ministry spokesperson Igor Konashenkov. “It’s not clear why the placement of S-300 in Syria has caused such a stir among our Western colleagues.”
As well as operating a naval facility in Tartus, Russia runs an air base outside the Syrian coastal city of Latakia, which currently houses warplanes used in its bombing campaign in support of Mr Assad.
Pentagon spokesperson Peter Cook said the Russian missile system would not affect operations in the US-led air campaign against the Islamic State group in northern Syria, and questioned why Moscow was making the move.
“Last I checked, the Russians said that their primary goal was to fight extremism, ISIL and Nusra, in Syria,” he said, referring to the IS.
“Neither one has an air force ... So this is something we’ll watch carefully. But it should be clear to the Russians and everybody else operating in Syria how seriously we take the safety of our air crews.”
The Syrian army announced a major Russian-backed military push nearly two weeks ago to capture the eastern half of Aleppo, once the country’s commercial hub.
UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein decried the “ghastly avalanche of violence and destruction” in east Aleppo, saying 100 children had been killed in the past 10 days.
He urged the Security Council to introduce a limit on its members’ veto power, to prevent countries like Russia blocking the referral of Syria’s conflict to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. –