The Kremlin has condemned US Tomahawk strikes on a Syrian air base as an act of aggression and a violation of international law.
Russian state news agencies on Friday said President Vladimir Putin regarded the military action against the base the US believes launched a deadly gas attack as an aggression against a sovereign state . . . under a far-fetched pretext.
Earlier this week, Russia hit out at Washington after it accused Bashar al-Assad’s regime of perpetrating Tuesday’s chemical attack on civilians. Moscow insists the Syrian air force had hit a depot of chemical weapons produced by rebels fighting against government forces a claim rejected by the US.
Dmitry Peskov, Mr Putin’s press secretary, said the Russian president viewed Washington’s action as an attempt to divert international attention from the many civilian casualties from the military operation in Iraq.
Russian lawmakers went further, saying the attack had raised the spectre of a direct military confrontation between Russia and the US.
This step will have far-reaching consequences, Mikhail Emelyanov, a lawmaker in the Russian parliament, told Russian news agencies.
Two Russian Federation flags fly on a road leading to the Lenin mausoleum on Red Square in Moscow, Russia, on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016. Russia is realistic about limits on the prospects for an immediate improvement in relations with… The US are entering into the war in Syria, knowing perfectly well that Russia supports Syria and that our troops are there, ie this is fraught with a direct confrontation between Russia and the US, and there could be serious consequences all the way to armed clashes and the exchange of strikes, nothing can be ruled out here, he said.
Coming only days before Rex Tillerson is due to visit Moscow as US secretary of state for the first time, the US air strikes are set to crush remaining hopes in the Kremlin Donald Trump’s presidency could offer a chance to improve bilateral relations, hit by Moscow’s aggressive policies in Ukraine and Syria.
There had been the hope that we will have it easy with Trump, but nothing will be easy, it will be very hard, Yelena Suponina, adviser to the director of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, a think-tank close to the security services, said on state television. It turns out that there will be a lot of unpredictability. It is very, very dangerous.
Russian state media reported that Moscow would demand a UN Security Council meeting to discuss the US air strike. First of all Russia will demand an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, Ria Novosti, the news agency, quoted Viktor Ozerov, head of the defence and security committee at the Federation Council, the upper house of parliament, as saying. This can be seen as an act of aggression by the US against UN member countries.
Mr Ozerov also told Russian agencies that the country could suspend all military contacts with the US over the action.
Konstantin Kosachyov, chairman of the Federation Council’s international affairs committee, warned that co-operation between Russia and the US in fighting terrorism in Syria, which Moscow has viewed as the most promising field for improving bilateral relations, was unlikely to develop after the strikes.
“I’m afraid that which things like this going on, the hoped-for Russian-American anti-terror coalition in Syria, of which there has been so much talk after Trump’s arrival in power, will be stillborn, he wrote on Facebook. “And it all started so well. What a pity.
Russian state media stressed in their coverage that the US strikes had come “without any consultation with the international community and without a UN mandate”, comparing them with past US military interventions in Yugoslavia and Iraq.
US involvement in other countries without UN mandate has been one of President Putin’s constant complaints against Washington and one of the key factors driving his aggressive foreign policy of the last three years.