Russia: US failed to provide Syrian locations

2016-06-19 22:20
A Russian military delegation visits the Hemeimeem air base in Syria. (Vadim Savitsky, AP)

A Russian military delegation visits the Hemeimeem air base in Syria. (Vadim Savitsky, AP)

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Moscow - The Russian military on Sunday rejected the Pentagon's accusations that it had deliberately targeted US-backed Syrian opposition forces, arguing that Washington had failed to warn about their locations.

Russian Defence Ministry spokesperson Igor Konashenkov said the area targeted in the strike was more than 300km away from locations earlier designated by the US as controlled by legitimate opposition forces.

Coalition forces

The Pentagon said it held a video conference on Saturday with the Russian military to discuss Russian air strikes on Thursday on the At-Tanf border garrison, which targeted Syrian opposition forces fighting the Islamic State group.

It said: "Russia's continued strikes at At-Tanf, even after US attempts to inform Russian forces through proper channels of ongoing coalition air support to the counter-ISIS forces, created safety concerns for US and coalition forces."

Konashenkov retorted that the Russian military had warned the US in advance about the planned strike, but the Pentagon had failed to provide co-ordinates of legitimate opposition forces, "making it impossible to take measures to adjust the Russian air force action."

He added that the Russian military had proposed months ago to share information about locations of various forces involved in military action in Syria to create a comprehensive map, but the Pentagon hasn't been forthcoming.

On a conciliatory note, he added that Saturday's video conference with the Pentagon was "constructive," reflecting a shared desire "to improve co-ordination in fighting terrorist organisations in Syria and avoid incidents while conducting military operations there."

Fierce fighting

Russia has conducted an air campaign in Syria since September last year, helping Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces win back some ground.

Russian President Vladimir Putin pulled back some of Russia's warplanes in March in what he described as a move to help encourage peace talks, but the military has maintained a strong presence at the Hemeimeem air base in Syria's coastal province of Lattakia, Assad's Alawite heartland.

A US- and Russian-brokered ceasefire that began on February 27 helped reduce hostilities for the first time in the five-year conflict, but fierce fighting has continued in many areas, particularly around Aleppo.

Read more on:    us  |  russia

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