Rus­sians to track US air­craft over Syria as ‘po­ten­tial tar­gets’

● Warn­ing comes af­ter air force jet shot down by Amer­i­cans

The Scotsman - - World News - By NATALIYA VASILYEVA

from the Us-led coali­tion op­er­at­ing over govern­ment-con­trolled ar­eas of Syria will be tracked as po­ten­tial tar­gets, Rus­sia’s De­fence Min­istry said yes­ter­day.

The warn­ing came af­ter the US mil­i­tary shot down a Syr­ian air force jet.

Moscow con­demned the shoot­ing down of the Syr­ian jet af­ter it dropped bombs near the Us-backed Syr­ian Demo­cratic Forces that are fight­ing the Is­lamic State group in Syria.

The down­ing of the war plane–the­first time in the con­flict that the US has shot down a Syr­ian jet – came as Iran fired sev­eral bal­lis­tic mis­siles at IS po­si­tions in eastern Syria in re­tal­i­a­tion for two at­tacks by the ex­trem­ists in Tehran ear­lier this month that killed 17 peo­ple.

Ar­eas of north­ern Syria west of the euphrates were con­trolled by IS be­fore Syr­ian govern­ment forces cap­tured most of them in re­cent months.

The Rus­sians ap­pear to want to avoid fur­ther US tar­get­ing of Syr­ian war­planes or ground troops that have come un­der at­tack in eastern Syria re­cently.

Moscow also called on the US mil­i­tary to pro­vide a full ac­count­ing of why it de­cided to shoot down the Syr­ian Su-22.

Rus­sia, a key ally of Syr­ian pres­i­dent Bashar al-as­sad, has been pro­vid­ing an air cover to the govern­ment’s of­fen­sive since 2015.

But in April, Rus­sia briefly sus­pended a hot­line in­tended to pre­vent midair in­ci­dents with the US over Syria af­ter the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary fired 59 mis­siles at a Syr­ian air base fol­low­ing a chem­i­cal weap­war­planes ons at­tack that Wash­ing­ton blamed on the As­sad govern­ment.

The US mil­i­tary con­firmed that one of its F-18 Su­per Hor­nets shot down a Syr­ian Su-22 that had dropped bombs near the US part­ner forces SDF. Those forces, which are aligned with the US in the cam­paign against the Is­lamic State group, warned Syr­ian govern­ment troops to stop their at­tacks or face re­tal­i­a­tion. Rus­sian Deputy Foreign Min­is­ter Sergei Ryabkov com­pared the down­ing to “help­ing the ter­ror­ists that the US is fight­ing against”.

“What is this, if not an act of ag­gres­sion?” he asked.

Vik­tor Oze­rov, chair­man of the de­fence and se­cu­rity com­mit­tee at the up­per cham­ber of Rus­sian par­lia­ment, de­scribed the De­fence Mi­nis- try’s state­ment as a warn­ing. “I’m sure that be­cause of this nei­ther the US nor any­one else will take any ac­tions to threaten our air­craft,” he told the state-ownedria novo s ti news agency. “That’s why there’s no threat of di­rect con­fronta­tion be­tween rus­sia and amer­i­can air­craft.”

Mr Oze­rov in­sisted that Rus­sia will be track­ing the coali­tion’s jets, not shoot­ing them down, but he added that “a threat for those jets may ap­pear only if they take ac­tion that pose a threat to Rus­sian air­craft.”

Mean­while, op­po­si­tion fight­ers said As­sad’s forces have been at­tack­ing them in the north­ern prov­ince of Raqqa and warned that if such at­tacks con­tinue, the fight­ers will take ac­tion.

Clashes be­tween Syr­ian troops and the SDF would es­ca­late ten­sions and open a new front line in the many com­plex bat­tle­fields of the civil war, which is now in its sev­enth year.

0 Moscow seems to want to avoid US tar­get­ing of Syr­ian war­planes

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