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Moscow Doubts SDF Role in Fighting ISIS | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria is one of the last towns in Syria held by ISIS militants. (AFP/File)

Moscow- Russia’s Defense Ministry denied on Sunday that its airforce launched a strike against the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Syria’s eastern town of Deir Ezzor, and said it doubted the role of these forces in fighting ISIS.

The ministry’s denial came in response to SDF statements accusing the Syrian regime and the Russian forces of targeting their fighters in the industrial area near the eastern strip of the Euphrates River facing Deir Ezzor.

The ministry’s spokesman Igor Konashenkov said that in the past few days, “Russia’s means of control and reconnaissance did not find any clashes between ISIS terrorists and armed representatives of any third force.”

The spokesperson said that if any reports prove the presence of victims in the ranks of SDF forces, those would have occurred while fighters were present among ISIS militants.

“The representatives of the international coalition should explain how the opposition fighters and coalition advisers could infiltrate into the eastern parts of Deir Ezzor in the presence of ISIS military operations,” he added.

Konashenkov said: “In order to avoid unwanted escalation, the command of the Russian grouping in Syria using the existing communication channels notified in advance the US counterparts about borders of the military operation in Deir Ezzor.”

The spokesperson also said that during this operation, “the military destroyed manpower, armored vehicles and terrorists’ facilities both on the western and the eastern shores of Euphrates.”

On Saturday, the Pentagon released a statement saying the Russian Aerospace Force targeted the Syrian opposition.

“At approximately 12:30 a.m. GMT Sept. 16, Russian forces struck a target east of the Euphrates River in Syria near Deir Ezzor, causing injuries to Coalition partner forces,” said a news release published by Operation Inherent Resolve.

The news release also claimed that Russia knew there were Syrian opposition forces and coalition advisers in the area.