Moscow condemned on Friday the US air strike on a Syrian airbase, announcing that has suspended the bilateral agreement to help avoid clashes in the skies over the war-torn country.
“President Putin considers American strikes on Syria aggression against a sovereign state in violation of international norms, and under an invented pretext,” said the statement by the Kremlin press service posted on the official website.
Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the US of breaking international law in wake of the strike, adding that they have seriously hurt US-Russia relations, added the Kremlin.
Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov was cited as saying that the Russian leader, a staunch ally of Syrian regime head Assad, regarded the US action was taken on a “made-up pretext” and as a cynical attempt to distract the world from civilian deaths in Iraq.
US President Donald Trump ordered the military strike on a Syrian air base at 0040GMT, in retaliation for what he said was a “very barbaric attack” Tuesday that is suspected to have contained a nerve agent.
Moscow has been flying a bombing campaign in support of Syrian regime forces since September 2015 and on Wednesday said it would continue to back the regime.
The Russian foreign ministry announced the suspension of a memorandum signed with the US in October 2015 which set up a hotline to avoid clashes between their air forces in Syrian airspace as they carried out separate bombing campaigns.
“We call upon the UN Security Council to hold an extraordinary meeting to discuss the situation,” the ministry said in a statement, calling the strike “thoughtless.”
Russia had sought to deflect blame from Assad over the incident, claiming Syrian jets struck a rebel arms depot housing “toxic substances” and denying that the regime has access to any chemical weapons.
A White House official said 59 precision-guided Tomahawk missiles hit the Shayrat airfield, from where the US believes the attack was launched. The Syrian regime forces said that six people were killed and serious damage caused by the strike.
Nine Syrian planes as well as munition and fuel depots were destroyed in the US strike, but the runway was intact, the Russian state channel Rossiya24 reported from the scene.
Stores with ammunition and fuel were also targeted, its correspondent said, adding that a fire and some explosions were ongoing.
“But not all equipment has been destroyed, there is some that was not impacted by the strike,” the correspondent said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meanwhile hoped on Friday that the strikes on Syria would not irreparably damage relations between Moscow and Washington.
“This is an act of aggression, on an absolutely made-up pretext,” Lavrov told a news conference in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
“It reminds me of the situation in 2003 when the United States and Britain, along with some of their allies, attacked Iraq.”
No Russian servicemen were known to have been killed in the US strikes, he added.
The US military had given Russian forces advanced notice of its strikes on Syria and did not hit sections of the base where the Russians were believed to be present, Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said on Thursday.
Davis, briefing reporters on the operation, said the US military had “multiple” conversations with Russian forces on Thursday before the strike, using a line of communication that had previously been established to prevent an accidental clash in Syria during the fight against ISIS.